Gorillas before the end

New Red List: Worldwide 16, 306 species threatened

Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) in Virunga National Park, Congo WWF / G nther Merz
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The Western Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) in Central Africa are now officially considered endangered. Reckless poaching and the deadly Ebola virus have reduced the stocks of these great apes by 60 percent in the last quarter of a century. This emerges from the new "Red List 2007", which was published yesterday by the World Conservation Union IUCN in Gland, Switzerland.

"The species extinction continues unabated. The biodiversity of our planet is at stake, "WWF commented on the new Red List. Recently WWF-supported gamekeepers in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had found four shot copies of the equally threatened mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei).

WWF conservation activist Stefan Ziegler: "Five years ago, governments at the World Summit in Johannesburg promised a turnaround in species extinction by 2010. Since then, the number of species on the Red List has increased by 44 percent from 11, 167 to 16, 306 endangered species. A radical reversal is needed to stop the loss of valuable habitats and the exploitation of many species. "Today, international conservation plays only a role of extras on the political stage.

A vaccine against Ebola

The IUCN expert team also included scientists headed by Peter D. Walsh from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. The rearrangement of the Western Gorilla as a critically endangered species is not based on the remaining number of animals, which is currently even larger than other highly endangered species, but on the dizzying population decline.

"The rearrangement of the Western Gorilla as a critically endangered species makes us hopeful, " says Walsh. "At last we'll take care of each other before it's too late. Even a modest cash injection would be enough to curb poaching, get Ebola under control and secure the future of one of our closest relatives, "said the primatologist. display

One of the gorillas already supplied with a vaccine in the Leipzig Zoo. © Peter D. Walsh

Poaching and Ebola are a double blow against free-living gorillas in national parks and other protected areas, as the former afflict the accessible and the latter the remote areas. The experts are therefore hoping for effective law enforcement and anti-poaching campaigns. "Unfortunately, in recent years, in favor of promoting" politically correct "programs, such as ecotourism, less and less has been invested in the prosecution of poachers, " said Walsh. In addition, effective Ebola control measures must be initiated: there are vaccines that have already protected laboratory monkeys from Ebola successfully. However, in order to bring these vaccines out of the laboratory into the wild, safety and efficacy studies with zoo animals must first be performed.

Walsh and his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Leipzig Zoo and the Dessau-Tornau vaccine plant, a private vaccine manufacturer, have already taken a gulp with gorillas at the zoo. Currently, researchers are looking for financial support for further vaccination in zoo animals and vaccination in the wild.

Corals, algae, vultures

Newcomers to the Red List, however, are not just the gorillas. According to the WWF, three coral species and ten species of algae count for the first time. The consequences of climate change and fishing are increasing. Every fourth species of mammal, every eighth bird species, every third species of amphibian, every fifth species of shark and ray, and 70 percent of all recorded plant species are endangered. Only for one species - the Mauritius Parakeet (Psittacula eques) - it went up slightly in the last year thanks to costly protective measures.

Bengal vulture (Gyps bengalensis) WWF Canon / Uzma Khan

In contrast, the situation has deteriorated markedly for woolly-headed vultures (Trigonoceps occipitalis) and black-billed eggs (Gyps rueppellii) in Africa. One reason is insecticide-poisoned carcasses, which farmers use as predators against predators to protect their livestock, but from which vultures feed. In Pakistan, the WWF for the protection of the Bengal vultures (Gyps bengalensis) has successfully campaigned for a ban on the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac used in veterinary medicine, in which vultures poison themselves with pet carcasses - putting the population at the edge of the wild Extinction.

In addition to habitat loss, poaching and environmental toxins, unregulated international commercial trade also threatens numerous species. For example, in the new Red List of popular aquarist Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) is considered endangered. An estimated 900, 000 fish are caught each year in Indonesian waters.

(WWF World Wide Fund for Nature / MPG, 13.09.2007 - DLO)