Thursday, 15 September 2016

Four out of six great apes are now critically endangered as 'global extinction crisis' escalates

'To see the eastern gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing'

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent 

The largest primate on Earth – the eastern gorilla – is now “critically endangered”, it has been officially announced after a staggering decline in their population in just 20 years. The decision by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) means that four out of the six great apes – both types of gorilla and both types of orangutan – are feared to be on the brink of extinction.

It would perhaps not be surprising if they were to die out. Of more than 82,000 species assessed by the IUCN, nearly 30 per cent are facing that fate – almost entirely because of the actions of humans.

Geologists are currently considering reclassifying the Earth’s present geological epoch as the Anthropocene – a name that reflects the extent of our impact on the planet – partly because of what some scientists are already calling the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. If they are correct, it is a slaughter comparable to the disappearance of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, when a massive asteroid is thought to have hit what is now Mexico, sending a blanket of thick smoke around the Earth.

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