Chimpanzees are under serious threat of extinction across their entire range, primarily due to the effects of deforestation, slash and burn agriculture, traffic in primates as pets and of course the “bushmeat” trade.
The term “bushmeat” refers to all wildlife populations, including threatened and endangered species used for trade and human consumption. The list of exploited animals is long, but includes the African elephant, gorillas, the Nile crocodile, many antelope species, pangolins, guinea fowl, porcupines, spotted cats, chimpanzees, and many, many others.
At one time, Africa’s chimpanzee population was well over 1 million. Today, there are no more than 150,000 individuals left. Wild chimpanzees are already extinct in four of their former range countries and their population continues to decline within the remaining 21 African nations in which they survive.
The bushmeat crisis is an incredibly serious one with animals literally being eaten to extinction. The local hunting that has been part of life in Africa for generations has now changed to commercial hunting and everything that can be eaten is shot and smoked. Now the bushmeat trade has taken over as the greatest threat to the survival of the chimpanzee, and we need your urgent help to effectively defend this Great Ape!
Often the mother is shot for the meat and the baby orphans are either sold to anyone who has the money to buy them or are left roaming the forest to eventually die alone, frightened and hungry.
HSI has already been fighting wildlife poaching and the bushmeat trade in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Guinea (where we support a successful chimpanzee sanctuary). We now want to focus our efforts on the shared border areas between Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Although Guinea has one of the largest estimated populations of chimps, numbering around 25,000, hunters remove more than 1 million metric tons of bushmeat every year resulting in ‘empty forest syndrome’ in many places and chimps are declining at a frightening pace.
In an emergency effort to protect chimpanzees and other animals in the wild HSI has joined with other concerned organisations (including the Jane Goodall Institute) to run an extensive 2 year project designed to develop awareness of the critical importance of chimpanzees and all wildlife, to promote sustainable agricultural and forestry practices and to increase the capacity of government agencies to pursue compliance with existing laws.
While blessed with extraordinary biodiversity, Guinea and Sierra Leone are amongst the world’s poorest nations, and wildlife enforcement agencies have extremely limited capacity. There is no money for enforcement training, even though it is considered essential in protecting chimpanzees and other wild animals.
HSI has accepted the challenge of filling this gap. Working with legislators, law enforcement agencies, educators, community leaders and the general public, the goal of the project is to build the capacity to respond to the multiple threats that endanger chimpanzees - especially the poaching of animals for bushmeat and the commerce in infant chimpanzees for the pet trade.
HSI will stage regional workshops to provide basic training in species identification, animal handling, transportation and enforcement and lay the foundations for formalising regional and national strategies to curb illegal practices that threaten chimps and their habitats.
There are few issues in international wildlife protection today that garner more public attention than the plight of Great Apes. Programs like ours are essential to a meaningful strategy for chimpanzee protection in the wild.
More information on the bushmeat crisis
Images courtesy of CCC Guinea. Copyright Project Primate.
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