Sunday, October 21, 2007

Great apes face not just bush meat and deforestation hardships; Ebola is adding to the toll

The most common type of gorilla, the Western Gorilla, is now critically endangered. The fate of the gorilla is looking pretty dismal as commercial hunting, loss of habitat (largely due to palm oil plantations), and Ebola wreak havoc. Russ Mittermeier, head of IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, says, "We could fit all of the remaining great apes in the world into 2 or 3 large football stadiums." The Western Gorillas main subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla, has been decimated in the past 15 years by the Ebola virus -- 1/3 of the gorillas in protected areas have been effectively killed off. Peter Walsh, a member if IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, says, "The rate of decline is dizzying. If it continues, we'll lose them in 10-12 years." The sad part is, gorilla populations may never rebound. Females typically do not have their first offspring until 10 years of age and thereafter only give birth every five years. Immediate, decisive action must be taken. Now the pressure is really on, as the measures to save the gorilla from extinction are two-fold: protecting their habitat and developing a vaccine.

-Tad Henry

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