By Renae Reints
November 15, 2018

The population of Mountain Gorillas has increased from roughly 680 to over 1,000 in the last 10 years, a major improvement for a species that was previously on the brink of extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported Wednesday.

As a result, Mountain Gorillas are now considered endangered rather than critically endangered, the group said in its latest Red List, which categorizes species based on their risk of extinction.

Mountain Gorillas live in Rwanda, Uganda, and two protected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Much of their habitat borders agricultural lands cultivated by a growing human population.

The gorillas’ improved status is thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, including anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions, says IUCN. While this progress is commendable, the gorillas are still threatened by poaching, nearby civil unrest, and human-introduced diseases like respiratory infections and Ebola.

The current population of over 1,000 is the highest ever recorded for the subspecies. The Eastern Gorilla species to which the mountain gorilla belongs, however, remains critically endangered.

“Whilst it is fantastic news that Mountain Gorillas are increasing in number, this subspecies is still endangered and therefore conservation action must continue,” Dr. Liz Williamson, of the IUCN SSC primate specialist group, said in a statement.

The latest update to the IUCN Red List also gave hope for the Fin Whale, which is now listed as vulnerable instead of endangered, with global populations doubling since the 1970s. Grey Whales were also bumped up, moving to endangered instead of critically endangered. These improvements are thanks to protections such as bans on commercial hunting and international agreements.

Fish populations in two important African fisheries—Lake Malawi and the Lake Victoria Basin—are seriously threatened, however. Their collapse could cause food scarcities, particularly in the coastal communities of developing countries.

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