Friday, April 10, 2015

The fate of western lowland gorillas and central chimpanzees over the next decade

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently published a new report detailing what threats central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) face and identifying conservation priority areas for the next ten years.

Central chimpanzees are currently listed as endangered whereas western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered. The new regional action plan identifies three main threats to the survival of both great apes including 1) poaching (forbidden by national laws but still a serious problem), 2) disease and 3) habitat loss. These main forces threatening central chimps and western lowland gorillas are aided by increased habitat access, a growing demand for bushmeat, and a lack of law enforcement as well as corruption.

Obstacles detailed in the regional action plan include a lack of solution to the Ebola endemic and mining and logging in forests that were once remote and inaccessible. Mining and logging aren't directly threatening to apes, but these industries create access through roads or railroads to great ape habitat. These animals and others can then be poached. Another obstacle is the growth of agriculture, specifically palm oil, which will mean the loss of forested areas that are presently home to chimps and gorillas. The report also details an overall lack of management, law enforcement, adequate monitoring and research. A legal system with substantial corruption is making matters worse.

The report identified six new priority landscapes in addition to the twelve first identified in 2005. Fifty-one percent of central chimpanzee and western lowland gorilla geographic range is now included in these eighteen landscapes, covering 77% of chimp and gorilla population. These priority landscapes are not all protected areas however. In fact, the protected areas within these landscapes currently protect 21% of the population.

The IUCN report recommends the following actions to ensure the survival of central chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas: law enforcement and better regulations, national and regional land-use planning, and outreach to all sectors that deal with protecting natural resources and land.

Monitoring the cause and effect of responses in reducing pressures that are detrimental to great ape populations will allow researchers to determine the success of this regional action plan. The first year will be about implementation with reports that are fully accessible to the public available in year ten.

The action plan concludes by stating that much has been accomplished since 2005. However, more needs to be done as the region continues to experience population growth (humans) and an increasing and global demand for extracting natural resources from the area also creates new problems. The report is optimistic that holistic solutions that allow biodiversity protection and the well-being of humans can be found and reached if governments make thoughtful decisions that look far into the future.

You can read the full regional action plan here.

Links of interest:
A.P.E.S. Portal
IUCN Primate Specialist Group
Ebola and Primates
SMART-Wildlife Conservation Tool 
In Situ Conservation I and II

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