In a recent issue of Current Biology, research revealed an alarming rate of decline among the chimpanzee populations in West Africa’s Cote d’Ivoire. The findings came after an expedition by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology surveyed the chimpanzee habitats of West African forests in both lands that were protected as reserves as well unprotected, public lands. What they discovered have many concerned about the fate of the West African chimpanzees.
In the 1960’s the population of chimpanzees in this part of West Africa was around 100,000 individuals. This new survey shows a dramatic drop to only 1,000 chimpanzees left in the area. Along with these disheartening numbers, the survey also revealed that the only remaining population of chimpanzees to any viable extent were found only in the protected reserve lands of the Tai National Park which is itself seeing many outside threats encroaching on the reserve lands from growing agriculture industry along with threats from logging and hunters. These threats, coupled with funding that is set to expire in 2010 make the future of the Tai National Park, and the last remaining home of West Africa’s chimpanzee questionable, and many fear it will be the end of both.
The decline in the numbers of chimpanzees in the area are the result, as most threats to endangered species are, of human activities including hunting and deforestation of their homelands. As the human population of the area increases by an unsustainable rate, the chimpanzees may cease to exist. The need for urgent actions to keep these highly social animals from becoming extinct is desperately needed to save them and the Tai National Park. Efforts to stop hunting and poaching along with measures to protect the forests from the aggressive loggers and the agricultural industry which is attempting to take over the protected national park is needed in order to insure the survival of the last remaining population of chimps on the Cote d’Ivoire. As activists call for more funding to insure the survival of the Tai National Park and to implement conservation and monitoring efforts to protect the colony of chimpanzees there, conservationists around the world are keeping a close eye on the situation and working to insure hope for the endangered area. With just over a year left before their funding runs out, it will take a lot of work and a lot of pressure from the international community to insure the future of both the park and the critically endangered chimpanzees.