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Rwanda Gorilla Trek

Work to save fin whales and mountain gorillas from extinction appears effective, report finds


WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — A new report suggests wildlife conservation efforts may be yielding some positive results.

An updated Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, revealed that the statuses of fin whales and mountain gorillas have improved in the last decade.

In the new report, the fin whale has been upgraded from endangered to vulnerable, and the status of the mountain gorilla has moved from critically endangered to endangered.

Spain Whales
A fin whale is seen in the Mediterranean Sea. (Marta Ramoneda/AP)

Fin whales, the second-largest mammals in the world, have long been hunted commercially. But since international bans on commercial whaling — one in 1976 that banned whale hunting in the North Pacific and Southern Hemisphere, and one in 1986 put in place by the International Whaling Commission — the species has nearly doubled in global population to about 100,000.

Japan Whaling
Japan's whaling ship "Nisshin Maru" is docked at a pier in Tokyo following its return from Antarctica in 2008. The ship docked after the fleet killed only 60 percent of its target number of 1,000 whales. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)

But there are still threats to the species. Iceland reinstated commercial whaling in May, joining Norway and Japan on the list of countries that maintain the practice. Japan’s hunting operations have continued under the guise of “scientific” whaling.

Rwanda Gorilla Trek
Mountain gorillas sit in the dense forest on the slopes of Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda. (Ben Curtis/AP)

Mountain gorillas have also seen significant improvements, with their population now at more than 1,000, up from 680 in 2008.

But the subspecies of eastern gorilla still faces numerous threats, including habitat loss and poaching.

Habitat loss has taken a large toll on the mountain gorilla, as human land-clearing for agriculture and roads has driven gorillas further up mountains.

In addition, they often fall victim to traps intended for other game. Poachers have also been known to target mountain gorillas, usually for trophies and less often for meat.

Since mountain gorillas are slow to reproduce, the population drop has been difficult for conservationists to reverse.

But efforts to counteract the impact of hunting — from anti-poaching patrols to veterinary monitoring — have helped grow the population.

The IUCN pulls data from around 13,000 experts worldwide, and its Red List has tracked species' health since 1964.

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