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foret tropicale
Habitat Ecologique et Liberté des Primates

A Species in alarming decline

The common chimpanzee is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention, which makes the trading and possession totally prohibited.
This species is also listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), as subject to a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

Their population is indeed decreasing at an alarming rate. According to the IUCN, this species has disappeared from Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo and is also probably extinct in Guinea Bissau and Rwanda.
The population of Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees (the sub-species most threatened) has been reduced to only 5000 individuals, those of the western subspecies between 12 and 20,000, that of Central Africa around 62,000 and the eastern subspecies around 96,000.
Photo © Stéphane CHAMAYOU - HELP CONGO

What threats ?

There are several major threats to chimpanzees, which are leading to fewer individuals :

Poaching for meat, meat sales and the sale of live animals as pets This is a very lucrative business and still very active despite many actions implemented by various governments. The baby chimpanzee is often captured after their parents are killed, and are a byproduct of poaching, and many of these babies die soon after collection. Most of those who do survive are sold as pets. But to keep a chimpanzee in captivity quickly becomes problematic for both the animals and humans. They are often tied, beaten and malnourished. Some are lucky enough to arrive at a sanctuary, such as HELP Congo. But for every chimpanzee rescued by an African sanctuaries, it is estimated that ten others have died.

The degradation of their habitat by deforestation and fragmentation :
Whatever the cause of deforestation (whether for wood material, wood energy, agriculture, mining, oil exploitation, etc.. ), not only are acres of forest destroyed, but the remaining forest blocks become fragmented . These pieces of forest are often too small and too poor for ecosystems and chimpanzee survival. This fragmentation therefore causes a reduction or disappearance of various chimpanzee populations, and can lead to deleterious inbreeding.

Ebola :
It is difficult to estimate the impact of Ebola on populations of monkeys and apes. But deforestation (leading to the opening of trails in the forest) and hunting (with the movement of potentially contaminated bodies) are aggravating factors, promoting the spread of this disease in between populations of primates and men. This risk includes other diseases as well.

Solutions and programs

Chimpanzees must be allowed to live free and healthy in a sustainable natural environment. However, solutions are difficult to implement.

The fight against poaching and against deforestation
This is a top priority. The majority of tropical African nations have a legal framework on the hunting or harvesting of forest resources, but legislations are often unenforced; as the majority of chimpanzee habitats are located within developing countries with limited resources. Also, beyond police measures, it is necessary to ensure sustainable development of these populations. Anti-poaching and the fight against deforestation are also the responsibility of the so-called developed countries, and should deny the import of exotic animals and rethink the demand for tropical timber.

Increasing protected areas in Central Africa
More and more conservation programs are being developed across several countries throughout tropical Africa, such as the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) developed by UNEP Initiative (Environment Programme of the United Nations) or "Congo basin".

Individual actions, on-site, but also in developed countries
Each individual across the globe can act for the future of chimpanzees, mankind and the future of our planet through the limitation and sorting waste, purchasing wood products from sustainably managed forests, and limiting behaviors that have a strong impact on the environment.

Associations and NGOs
They are many key players in the start and implementation of conservation within Africa and abroad. For example, these structures are behind the development of primate sanctuaries in Africa, but also awareness campaigns that have led to the involvement of developed countries and major donor programs for primate conservation.

What are the conservation programs for primates ?

Sanctuaries aim to house chimpanzees and other primates surviving victims of poaching. Nearly a thousand chimpanzees currently living in sanctuaries throughout Africa. They are also involved in campaigns to raise awareness and support local authorities in their efforts against poaching, and offer a solutions for primates seized by authorities.
The majority of these sanctuaries are grouped within the Africa PASA Network (Pan African Sanctuary Alliance), of which HELP Congo also belongs. However, many sanctuaries are there only to meet emergency needs. A chimpanzee can live more than 40 years in captivity, and it is estimated that it costs $10USD per day to maintain just one great apes at a sanctuary.
Photo Archive - HELP CONGO

Chimpanzee reintroduction into the wild

To date, HELP Congo is only successful example of a reintroduction program that releases chimpanzees into the wild. The scope of this program, including the scientific monitoring of released individuals and excellent results have led scholars to reconsider their position on the subject of reintroduction. The reintroduction to the wild is now considered possible among other conservation organizations and is seen to provide a sustainable solution to the problems of sanctuaries.

HELP Congo is recognized as a reference and model to the reintroduction of chimpanzee by the IUCN Specialist. Programs are considering and studying reintroduction projects, and are able to seek our support and expertise.
In 2008, the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) in the Republic of Guinea released 14 chimpanzees, and Lola Ya Bonobo is also preparing to release a group of bonobos.