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Africa’s first-ever great ape assessment reveals that human activity, not habitat availability, is the biggest driver of great ape abundance

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Newswise – NEW YORK (October 21, 2021) – The very first Africa-wide assessment of great apes – gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees – reveals that human factors, including roads, population density and GDP, determine abundance more than ecological factors such as than forest cover.

The results are published in the American Journal of Primatology by a team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other groups.

The authors examined 156 sites in 20 countries, developing a model that covers the entire range of African great apes to determine abundance and identify key factors influencing their distribution at this large scale. The highest densities of monkeys were found in Central Africa and the lowest in West Africa.

According to the study’s lead author, Isabel Ordaz-Németh of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology: “The results reveal that the impact of human activities dominates ecological factors in determining where great apes are still found today. ‘hui. This means that although suitable habitat is still present in various places, such as tropical rainforest, monkeys are no longer present or at a much lower density, due to human activities.

Ordaz-Németh added, “Further, the relationship between GDP and great apes indicates a decline in great apes with more developed and larger economies. “

In addition, the study found that only 10.7 percent of the predicted great ape population was found in areas with high levels of legal protection (IUCN Category I and II Protected Areas).

WCS co-author Fiona “Boo” Maisels said, “This study reflects the recent discoveries that the distribution of elephants across the African continent is now also primarily limited by human activities, rather than environmental variables. Current great ape conservation strategies focus largely on protected areas, but only one in ten great apes lives in these areas. We need to improve the protection of the remaining nine-tenths of the great apes that are currently outside them and assess the impacts of alternative policies, infrastructure development or stricter guidelines for resource extraction.

An important question emerging from these findings is whether we can find solutions to harmonize economic development and the survival of great ape populations.

The authors note that recent assessments of African great ape populations have shown drastic declines. To successfully protect these endangered species, it is essential to assess the effectiveness of policies and the outcomes of different scenarios. These scenarios may include, for example, the impact of resource extraction sites, climate change, large-scale land use planning and the implementation of policies that are, for example, related to forest management. , or carbon storage policies for climate change mitigation.

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WCS (Society for the Conservation of Wildlife)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places around the world through science, conservation, education and inspiring people to value nature. To accomplish our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its global conservation program in nearly 60 countries and all of the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people each. year. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos and the aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.


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