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Gorilla habitat shrinking at 'alarming rate'
26 June 2014

All of the world's great apes, including all sub-species of gorilla, are at risk of extinction as their natural habitat is being destroyed by unsustainable exploitation, the United Nations has warned.

According to research carried out for the latest UN environment assembly, only five of the 27 great ape habitats dotted around the world do not have a mining project within their range, while many are also being decimated by rising infrastructure developments, including road and railway construction.

Some of the main threats facing gorillas in the wild, as well as Africa's dwindling populations of bonobos and chimpanzees, include logging and mineral and gas exploitation, while the threat of habitat being destroyed for oil and gas exploration is getting more serious by the day, the conference has heard. Meanwhile, in Asia, critically-endangered orangutans and gibbons continue to be pushed to the edge of extinction by rising demand for palm oil.

Highlighting the severity of the problem, a report produced for the conference, entitled 'State of the Apes: Extractive Industries and Ape Conservation', warns that, at the current rate, humans will have had an impact on 90 per cent of all the great ape habitat in Africa by the end of 2020, while in Asia, some 99 per cent of ape habitat will have been either destroyed or compromised, spelling bad news for humans and animals alike.

"A key message of 'state of the apes' report is that the global systems of production, consumption and demography are interconnected, and that rapid globalisation will continue to exert intense pressure on natural resources and ape habitats," the UN stated.

At present, around 880 mountain gorillas are left in the wild, with their habitat stretched across Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Meanwhile, lowland gorillas remain at great risk from threats such as habitat loss, poaching and, in potentially even respiratory diseases which they can catch from humans, and it is now estimated just 250 Cross River gorillas are left in the world.

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