Grauer's Gorillas: Fast Facts on the Dying Population of the World's Largest Primate

Sep 06, 2016 05:54 AM EDT

While the adorable giant pandas have been officially removed from the international endangered list, many species still face a serious threat. The world's largest gorilla, the eastern gorillas, has recently been classified as a "critically endangered" species on the updated International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species.

At present, there are only six species of the earth's great apes left. Four of them (Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan) are critically endangered, while the other two (chimpanzee and the bonobo) are both considered endangered.

Agence France-Presse reported that officials who attended the IUCN global conference held in Honolulu said the population of eastern gorillas has dropped about 70 percent in the last two decades. The decline can be likely blamed to the effects of war, hunting and migration

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"To see the Eastern gorilla -- one of our closest cousins -- slide towards extinction is truly distressing," says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General in a press release.

"We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet."

Below are some fast facts about the eastern gorilla, based on the press release of IUCN and other scientific sources:

1. Eastern gorilla has two subspecies -- Grauer's Gorilla (G. b. graueri) and the Mountain Gorilla (G. b. beringei). When combined together, their population is estimated to be fewer than 5,000.

2. They are terrestrial animals. Gorillas Worldsaid Grauer's gorilla are usually found in Democratic Republic of Congo while Mountain gorillas can be found in the volcanic Virunga Mountains, along the border between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.

3. World Wildlife Fund said Grauer's gorilla is the largest of the gorilla subspecies.  They have longer arms than the mountain gorilla and shorter hair and teeth. Meanwhile, mountain gorillas have a larger body and longer hair than eastern lowland gorilla.

4. According to Endangered Species International, the nose shape of each gorilla is unique, making it useful in identification of individuals.

5. They are herbivores and their group is usually led by a "silverback" male (mature gorillas with silver hair on their backs). They are considered polygamous, but only the leader has access to the females of a group for breeding.

6. Gorillas share 98.3 percent of their DNA with humans.

Giant Pandas Removed from IUCN's Endangered List -- How Did China Do It?
World's Largest Great Ape Now Critically Endangered -- Who are the Grauer's Gorillas?
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