Poverty decimates great apes
UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre press release
September 5, 2005
London 1st September 2005: Fewer than 250 wild Sumatran orangutans may exist in fifty years, their habitat is disappearing and the devastation of the Asian tsunami has accelerated the rate of destruction.
This is among the findings being announced at the launch of the first World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation today (1st September 2005) by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, which reveals that it is not just humans that will benefit from a campaign to make poverty history’. For the other 6 species of great ape the eastern and western gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, Sumatran and Bornean orangutan it could literally save them from the cooking pot.
The first World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation provides a country-by-country assessment of the 23 range states hosting the wild great apes. These countries are among the poorest in the world (1), so concerted international action is required if these species are to survive.
The Atlas, edited at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, is the most comprehensive compendium of information about great apes ever compiled, bringing together the latest research and observations from scientists throughout the world and including contributions from Kofi Annan, Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey, Toshisada Nishida, Russ Mittermeier and Ian Redmond. The book includes conservation status assessments at a species and country view level. The great apes’ biology, behaviour and culture are discussed in detail.
World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation
This atlas provides a comprehensive overview of what is currently known about all six species of great apes – chimpanzee, bonobo, Sumatran orangutan, Bornean orangutan, eastern gorilla, and western gorilla. It gives a thorough background on ape behaviour and ecology for each species, including detailed habitat requirements, the apes’ ecological role, and the possible consequences of their decline.
Despite the dedicated efforts of many individuals and organizations, the great apes all fall into the Endangered or Critically Endangered category of the IUCN Red List. This atlas offers a full description of the threats, current conservation efforts, and additional protection needed for each species across its entire range.
Information from the Atlas will be used to focus international attention for an eleventh hour conservation effort aimed at saving humankind’s closest living relatives from extinction. If current trends continue, by 2032: 99% of the orangutan range will suffer medium to high impacts from human development, as will 90% of the gorilla range, 92% of chimpanzee range and 96% of bonobo range.
The Atlas provides population estimates for the apes (see table) and reveals that the survival of the apes is threatened by: –
- Poverty of host countries 16 out of the 23 great range states have a per capita income of less than US $800.
- Growing bushmeat crisis – The Atlas raises concerns over the increasing trade in great ape bushmeat, and the sale of orphans to expatriates wanting to ‘rescue them’. Entire groups of adults may be killed to capture one orphan for sale. In Central Africa, a single chimpanzee or gorilla carcass can fetch the equivalent of US$20-25.
- Fragile habitats – The Atlas maps the impact of infrastructure development on wildlife, and uses the GLOBIO computer model to simulate future changes. Independent studies support these findings, predicting that if current trends in Indonesia and Malaysia persist, the orangutan will lose 47% of its habitat in the next 5 years (2), whilst at least 24% of the bonobo’s range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is already under logging concessions.
- Habitat fragmentation – The Atlas presents new information on the distribution of the Cross River gorilla, one of the two subspecies of western gorilla, which has only around 250 to 280 individuals left. These few animals are distributed amongst more than ten fragmented highland areas. Fragmentation isolates great ape populations from one another, increasing their vulnerability.
- Disease – It is also increasingly clear that disease, especially Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is playing a part in the decline of ape populations and new research is needed, along with stronger efforts to limit disease transmission.
The Atlas will be launched by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP at the Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London, with presentations by Lera Miles, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, co-editor of the Atlas, Glyn Davies, Director of Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London and Mark Leighton, Chair, GRASP Interim Scientific Commission.
Also at the launch, details of an indicative list of priority populations’, being compiled by Interim Scientific Commission of the United Nations Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) headed up by Mark Leighton, which will be among the critical issues to be discussed at the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) Intergovernmental Meeting: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 5-9 September 2005. The Intergovernmental Meeting will be attended by Rt Hon Jim Knight, UK Minister for Biodiversity.
(1) According to the Human Development Index (HDI) of the 23 states, 21 are ranked between 109 and 177 (Sierra Leone, the poorest country on the index). Countries are characterised by conflict, poverty and demand for extraction of natural resources, all challenges that make organised long-term social investments difficult.
Endangered wildlife trafficked via eBay, other online markets August 16, 2005
An investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reveals that vast quantities of wildlife products and live animals are bought and sold illegally on the Internet a lucrative trade that is driving the world’s most endangered species to the brink of extinction.
- 1,000 wild orang-utans poached a year says WWF August 6, 2005
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a leading conservation group, estimates that 1,000 orang-utans are poached annually from the wild, often for sale as pets for the wealthy. The organization says there are some 30,000 to 40,000 orang-utans left in the wild.
- Uganda imports rhinos from Kenya July 26, 2005
Uganda has imported four rhinos from Kenya according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). UWA hopes to develop a captive breeding program in an effort to reintroduce rhinos after their disappearance from the country in the 1960s due to poaching.
- Protectors of wildlife in war-torn Congo recognized with new Award June 1, 2005
Within the parks of the Congo Basin, environmentalism is more than just conservation of wildlife – it’s a matter of survival for the guards, wardens and forest park rangers risking their lives to protect some of the world’s richest ecosystems. Five of those men were honored today with the Abraham Conservation Award in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. The Alexander Abraham Foundation joined the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Congolese Institute for the Protection of Nature (ICCN) in paying tribute to the winners of the first Abraham Conservation Awards to be given in Africa.
- Okapi, other wildlife saved in the Congo by forest protector April 21, 2005
Corneille Ewango of the Wildlife Conservation Society today received the prestigious Picture courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize for risking his life helping to protect one of Africa’s environmental gems—the Okapi Faunal Reserve—from the depredations of rebel militias in the wartorn region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
- 25 percent of the world’s 625 primate species at risk of extinction according to new report by Conservation International April 8, 2005
Mankind’s closest living relatives—the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates—face increasing peril from humans and some could soon disappear forever, according to a report released today by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).
The text above includes a press release from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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