Protecting the Last Populations of Great Apes In Africa

Introduction:

Gorilla and chimpanzee populations have been eliminated from most of East and West Africa and the relatively intact forests of western equatorial Africa are considered the last stronghold for African apes. Gabon and the Republic of Congo retain much of their native forests, and they account for 80 percent of the world's remaining wild gorillas and most of the remaining wild chimpanzees.

In a recent letter to Nature, Walsh et. al. reported that ape populations in Gabon declined by more than half between 1983 and 20001. The main cause of this decline was commercial hunting for the bush meat trade, which has been facilitated by rapidly expanded logging operations. Furthermore an epidemic of Ebola haemorrhagic fever is spreading through these isolated ape populations and may well rival hunting as a threat to their survival. The authors call for these apes to be elevated to critically endangered status to help prevent their extinction.

We spoke with John Oates about his work on the ecology and on the conservation of monkeys and apes in Africa, and his thoughts on the best way to protect them.

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