A new conservation plan launched for eastern and central Africa definitely doesn’t skimp on chimps. And why should it? Humans do share about 98 percent of the same genes as chimpanzees.
So over a 10-year effort to save our shorter, hairier ape cousins, WCS and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature will work to protect 16 crucial areas wherein eastern chimpanzees number between 200,000 and 250,000.
That’s about 96 percent of all known chimpanzee populations.
Last August, more than 30 experts from 7 countries met in Uganda to develop an action plan to save these primates. Classified by IUCN as Endangered, eastern chimpanzees face threats from hunting, disease, kidnapping for the pet trade as well as habitat destruction via mining, farming and deforestation.
Illegal hunting and trafficking are two of the greatest threats to eastern chimpanzees. Through the action plans, conservationists hope to reduce the levels of these activities by half within most of the species range.
“In the next decade, we hope to minimize the threats to these populations and the ecological and cultural diversity they support,” said Andrew Plumptre, director of WCS’s Albertine Rift Program and the plan’s lead author.
Through the ambitious plan, researchers will survey the chimp’s populations across their wild range, which includes the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia. For more than 22,000 GPS-located points, wildlife experts will gather data on the chimpanzees—where they nest, where they eat, where they make noise. Unfortunately, the chimps frequent some places that are off-limits to the researchers due to violent conflict. To fill in these data gaps for these areas, the plan authors formulated predictive models to estimate the density of local chimpanzee populations.
Chimp conservationists also aim to deepen their understanding of the health risks to chimpanzee populations, including human-transmitted diseases, to encourage local community support for conservation, and to secure sustainable financing for chimpanzee conservation units.
“The plan will require considerable support from the global community—approximately $315,000 per chimpanzee conservation unit, or $5 million each year—but will ensure the continued survival of eastern chimpanzees in their natural habitats,” said Dr. James Deutsch of WCS-Africa.
The development of the Action Plan was funded by WCS through the generous support of the Arcus Foundation, a leading global philanthropic foundation advancing pressing conservation and social justice issues, and the Daniel K. Thorne Foundation.