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Threats to Primate Populations

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Photo: Stephanie Meng

Population growth, the expansion of agricultural activities, the institutional decline, social and economic, political instability, humanitarian crises are factors of pressure on apes that can overshadow many conservation efforts: Their habitat is suffering from a non-sustainable use by local people. Large tracts of forest are looted and fauna.

Habitat loss

Deforestation impacts environment as its consequences induce soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, climate change, desertification, landscape fragmentation. Deforestation, for logging, local or industrial agriculture, infrastructure building is today the main threat to the survival of great apes. Deforestation leads to the critical reduction of geographic range of wild individuals, meaning that their territory is reduced and so are their food patches.

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Solutions proposed by some institutes are the use of manual tools instead of modern ones, a limited access to logging, a selective and limited cut of threes, and the establishing of protected areas.

The more forest logging go further in the forest, the more they open roads to get deep into isolated areas, the easier the poachers can hunt in remote areas… bringing with them (such as employees of logging, scientist and tourist) numerous disease, leading to a rapid end as the great apes are so similar to us and are sensitive to diseases…

Disease transmission

Transmissions of diseases are a major concern for the viability of populations of wild primates: the contact with humans (forest researcher, tourist …) tends to increase the contamination between species. The proposed solutions to minimize contact between humans and animals, taking strict precautions such as wearing masks, screenings and vaccinations, health practices, the minimum distances required between primates and men …

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Poaching

In the past, hunters were using traditional weapons (snares) to catch their prey and the period of time allocated to this activity was long.  Nowadays, poachers have access to modern weapons such as guns, easy and practical to use, consequently leading to an increasing number of victims in a shorter period of time. This ability of guns multiplies poaching level and highly participates in the disappearance of wild fauna (not just primates but all of the species leaving in the tropical rain forest).

Photo: Stephanie Meng

Photo: Stephanie Meng

What is important to understand is that primates mainly live in social groups. Most of the time a poacher can reach several individual at a time. Adult primates are sold in the market, for their meat other traditional belief. Infant primates, if still alive are sold as pet to local habitants, as well as tourists. But regarding the strong relation between an infant and its mother, it is quite common that, psychologically shocked, the infant does not survive to the trauma of being separated from its native group.

In some areas, the level of poaching has reach such a threshold, that some still untouched forests are empty of large mammals, whom ecological role is so important for the regeneration of the forest… this situation is called the “empty forest syndrome”.

In spite of international laws and conventions (it is forbidden to hunt, eat and possess a great ape), the application of penalties for non-compliance of these laws remains largely violated. The involvement of local authorities and local communities in a conservation project is crucial for a successful aim. Indeed, most of the time, regarded as sacred or consumed, great apes have an important role in the local culture. Finally, it is just as important as the financial support comes from the North.

For more information: http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/chimpanzee/cons

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