Chimpanzees Conservation Efforts
Both the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), including the subspecies of the former, are in danger of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Chimpanzees are creatures so familiar in popular culture that they may appear to be abundant in the world. In contrast, life in their natural habitat is full of dangers that have put them in an unfavorable situation. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) chimpanzees have disappeared from 4 African countries and in some others are close to doing so, because their populations are too small.
The total population of common chimpanzees is around 172,700-299,700 individuals, but the autonomous populations are small. For example, in Nigeria’s Gashaka-Gumti National Park, up to 1,500 Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ellioti or vellerosus) live, which is, in fact, the most endangered subspecies of all.
Meanwhile, in southern Congo there is a total population of 29,500 to 50,000 bonobos; These quantities are estimates since there is not an accurate census. Anyway, over time the population declines more and more.
The total population of both species is estimated to be less than 350,000.
They have two main threats:
– Loss and degradation of habitat.
Both species live mainly in rainforests and wet forests. In the trees, they find their food and shelter, the reason why the loss of these is a severe setback that reduces their chances of survival.
Habitat loss and degradation are the consequence of logging to convert the land into agricultural, mining and urban areas. In western Africa, deforestation is a serious problem, and it is precisely the geographical area where many chimpanzees live.
Wild animal meat has an extensive market in central and western Africa. The demand has grown during the recent years and with it the commerce and consumption of animals like the chimpanzees. Poaching for commercial purposes is also common to sell them as pets and use their body parts as medicinal remedies.
For bonobos, commercial poaching is their biggest threat.
Other threats include:
Chimpanzees share 98 percent of the genetic code with humans, but this similarity is also evident in some diseases. Infectious diseases are another cause of mortality, especially in habitats close to human populations as they can get the diseases of Homo sapiens, and vice versa. Chimpanzees in central Africa have been affected by the Ebola virus, which has drastically reduced their populations. The Virus of Immunodeficiency in apes is a particular case, because although it does not generate serious problems in chimpanzee health, for humans is mortal.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, infectious diseases are the leading cause of death in the common chimpanzees of Gombe, Taï, and Mahale.
All chimpanzees are legally protected animals, and many live in protected areas, such as the national parks of Gombe, Taï, Salonga, and Kibale. These regulations help to increase their chances of survival, since anyone who dares to hunt or trade them, is subject to prosecution.
However, not everybody follows those laws. Several governmental, nongovernmental, national, international, research and educational organizations, are concerned about the persistence of poaching and deforestation, and some also try to attack the problem from its base: education.
Awareness of the conservation status of chimpanzees is the first step in protecting them. Education efforts are under way for their protection and the recommendations of alternatives to threats such as logging and hunting. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the efforts to protect and save bonobos are scarce and insufficient, and only the activities of Non-Governmental Organizations are the only hope for their long-term survival.
Infectious diseases are a worrying factor for mortality, especially in habitats close to human populations.
One significant action is the management of protected natural areas and sanctuaries. These facilities keep chimpanzees captive or semi-captive to rehabilitate them before returning them to their natural habitats. Some individuals arrive after being harassed or after being seized from the hands of hunters or merchants.
Organizations such as the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) often confiscate orphan baby chimpanzees and send them to rehabilitation centers to provide them the care and attention needed for their development. Infant chimpanzees depend on their mothers, and separating them is the first act of cruelty.
Monitoring populations and even the study of their habits are also part of their conservation. Knowing and understanding that the world without them is not the same, is the first battle that conservationists want to win.
BioExpedition Publishing © 2017.