The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which publishes the Red List of endangered species, recently classified the western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ssp. verus) as “critically endangered”.
“This is a wakeup call for us. We need to do more to protect primates,” explains Professor Christophe Boesch. As the director of the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Boesch took part in the study that was the basis for their classification.
Chimpanzees have been pushed back into tiny, isolated fragments of their original habitats. Across West Africa, the landscape is increasingly dominated by the cultivation of oil palms, rubber, coffee and cocoa. Loggers are clearing the forests at an alarming rate while mining companies rip deep gashes into the land. Chimpanzee meat can be found on markets together with other varieties of bush meat.
While humans have shown little regard for the welfare of chimpanzees in the past, researchers are documenting just how closely related we are: chimpanzees mourn their dead, adopt orphans, use a variety of tools and have their own cultural traditions.
The only way to ensure the survival of chimpanzees is to create adequate protected areas. Liberia, for example, has pledged to preserve 30 percent of its forests by the year 2030. To date, only six percent have been protected, however. The situation is similar – or worse – in other countries with chimpanzee populations.
People are increasingly recognizing that more needs to be done to protect chimpanzees and the rainforest. International pressure can persuade governments to act quickly to designate protected areas and keep them safe.
Please give chimpanzees – our wild cousins – your voice and sign our petition.