The world's largest gorillas have been pushed to the brink of extinction by a surge of illegal hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are now critically endangered, officials said.
With just 5,000 Eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) left on Earth, the majestic species now faces the risk of disappearing completely, officials said at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) global conference in Honolulu.
Four out of six of the Earth's great apes are now critically endangered, "only one step away from going extinct," including the Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan, said the IUCN's latest update to its Red List, the world's most comprehensive inventory of plant and animal species.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are listed as endangered.
"To see the Eastern gorilla -- one of our closest cousins -- slide towards extinction is truly distressing," said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general.
War, hunting and loss of land to refugees in the past 20 years have led to a "devastating population decline of more than 70 percent," for the Eastern gorilla, said the IUCN's update.