Thursday, September 13, 2007

Planet Of No Apes? Experts Warn It's Close

"Great apes have rich emotional lives and share strong family bonds. They laugh when they are tickled, cry when they grieve. They can make and use tools. They think about their past and plan for their future.

But many won't have a future to plan for, conservationists say.

The Western Gorilla - the most common gorilla in the world - is now "critically endangered," just one step away from global extinction, according to the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species released Wednesday by the World Conservation Union.

The Ebola virus is depleting populations to a point where it might become impossible for them to recover. Commercial hunting, civil unrest and habitat loss due to logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations are compounding the problem, said the Swiss-based group, known by its acronym, IUCN.

"Great apes are our closest living relatives and very special creatures," Russ Mittermeier, head of IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, told The Associated Press. "We could fit all the remaining great apes in the world into two or three large football stadiums. There just aren't very many left.""

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