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
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.
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
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.