Lifespan: 50 - 60 yrs
Gestation Period: 8 months
Est. Population: 180,000
Habitat: Tropical Forest & Woody Savannah
Range: Western & Central Africa; Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda
Like humans, chimps are incredibly social animals with complex social structures & relationships. They are in-fact our closest cousins, sharing 98% of our genes. Unlike us they are bi-pedal [meaning they walk on all fours], and prefer to spend their time in the tree tops, over the forest floor. There, they are safer from their only significant natural predator, leopard.
Chimps are thought to be one of the most intelligent species on the planet after humans, and are not only known to show emotion but also to solve problems. The use of tools to obtain some foods has been documented across all chimpanzee populations. Sticks, rocks, grass, and leaves are all commonly used materials that are modified into tools and used to acquire and eat honey, termites, ants, nuts, and water.
All factors threatening the existence of chimpanzee populations are directly related to human activity.
1. Poaching to satisfy local demands and growing international markets;
- Hunted for bushmeat; used as a primary source of protein for African tribes.
- Trapped and sold through illegal wildlife trafficking rings as pets.
2. Habitat loss & degradation;
- Deforestation; the chimpanzees forest habitats have become smaller and more isolated.
Both hunting and habitat loss affect the current chimpanzee populations but also affect the future sustainability of the species. The newly decreased and isolated populations lack genetic diversity and are now more vulnerable to disease. For example, in 2002 an outbreak of Ebola swept across the Northern Congo and there were reports of substantial great ape causalities along with human casualties. The more recent Ebola breakout has greatly reduced the central chimpanzee and the western lowland gorilla populations.
Due to humans lowering the chimpanzee populations through poaching and irresponsible land use, we in turn render chimpanzees to become more susceptible to disease. Until these unsustainable and destructive habits cease, chimpanzee populations will continue to decline at a drastic rate.
Chimpanzee conservation starts with the people that share their habitats, many issues can be addressed by working with local communities to educate and often incentivize conservation. This can be done by providing monetary incentives, and education on sustainable agriculture practices. People are more likely to protect the wildlife if they are benefiting from it, and see its direct value to their communities.
In the United States, US Wildlife Service has attempted to help protect chimpanzee populations by proposing a bill, which would put all chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This bill would protect both the wild chimpanzees, and the captive ones being used in experimental facilities. This would mean that scientists using chimpanzees in experiments would need more permits and have greater restrictions leading to a humane treatment of chimpanzees in labs. This will hopefully increase populations due to the decrease in availability and increase in restrictions and regulations.
In Canada, Fauna is a chimpanzee sanctuary that provides refuge to apes that have been part of illegal trade to those used in experimental facilities. Through donations and volunteering, organizations like Fauna hope to bring attention to the endangerment that faces chimpanzees and help promote a global movement of conservation in the hope of a prosperous and ecologically healthy future for all species.