- The biggest "threat" to the primate population
has been a century of out-of-control scientific experimentation which has
caused these animals to become extinct. What animal population (including
human beings) would want to survive knowing they were to be used solely
for medical experimentation and "amusement"?
- Many people don't understand that ape, chimps, gorillas
AND human beings are ALL primates. We separate them from us by referring
to them as "non-human" primates. However, one wonders how much
"humanity" human primates have in being the sole cause of the
extinction of these animals --- which share 99% of our DNA genetic material
. Note that scientific experimentation and abuse of these animals is NOT
mentioned in this "authoritative" article.
- Alan Cantwell MD,
- author of AIDS AND THE DOCTORS OF DEATH
- Apes 'Extinct In A Generation'
- By Richard Black
- BBC News Environment Correspondent
- "The great apes are our kin... but we have not treated
them with the respect they deserve."
- -- Kofi Annan
- Some of the great apes - chimps, gorillas, and orangutans
- could be extinct within a human generation, an authoritative new assessment
- Human settlement, logging, mining and disease mean that
orangutans in parts of Indonesia may lose half of their habitat within
- There are now more than 20,000 humans on the planet
for every chimpanzee.
- The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation
is published by the UN's environment and biodiversity agencies.
- It brings together data from many sources in an attempt
to assess comprehensively the prospects for the remaining great apes; the
gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos of Africa, and the orangutans of south-east
- Gloomy outlook
- The general conclusion is that the outlook is poor.
- "All of the great apes are listed as either endangered
or critically endangered," co-author Lera Miles from the World Conservation
Monitoring Centre near Cambridge told the BBC News website.
- "Critically endangered means that their numbers
have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations."
- One critically endangered species is the Sumatran orangutan,
of which around 7,300 remain in the wild.
- Most live in Aceh province at the northern tip of Sumatra,
which saw armed conflict for decades between the Indonesian government
and separatist rebels, and which suffered heavily during December's tsunami.
- In mid-August, a peace deal was signed which may end
the 29-year conflict.
- "The irony is that just as things are getting better
for the people of Aceh, they're getting worse for wildlife, with people
collecting timber, dormant logging concessions being activated, and illegal
logging as well," said Dr Miles.
- "Projections show that in 50 years time, there
could be as few as 250 left in the wild; but that's not a viable size for
- The other species of orangutan, in Borneo, is much better
off, with around 45,000 animals remaining; though data gathered for this
report by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and its biodiversity
agency the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) suggests that numbers
have declined 10-fold since the middle of the last century.
- African falls
- The mountain gorilla of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
and the Cross River gorilla, found on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon,
are also listed as critically endangered, with numbers estimated at 700
and 250 respectively.
- For gorillas and chimpanzees, ebola fever is emerging
as a significant threat.
- Why ebola is now taking its toll of apes is not clear,
but may be connected with forest clearance. One theory is that the as yet
unidentified animal which harbours the virus lives on the edges of forests;
logging creates more edges, and so enhances the transmission of ebola.
- An expert group of researchers which convened in May
has just released an action plan for conserving apes in western equatorial
- "If we find ways to protect apes from the ebola
virus, we also will protect humans," it concludes.
- But disease is not the only threat to the well-being
of chimpanzees, their close relatives bonobos, and gorillas.
- Bushmeat hunting and habitat removal by logging are
also major issues.
- The 1990s saw forest cover declining in all African
countries where gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos live.
- Close to human
- The World Atlas comes with a foreword by UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, in which he argues forcibly for the preservation of apes.
- "The great apes are our kin," he writes. "Like
us, they are self-aware and have cultures, tools, politics, and medicines;
they can learn to use sign language, and have conversations with people
and with each other.
- "Sadly, however, we have not treated them with
the respect they deserve."
- His thesis on the close kinship of ape and man has been
reinforced by the publication this week of the chimpanzee genome, demonstrating
that humans and chimps share 99% of their active genetic material.
- But stopping the decline of ape populations may not
be easy, with human encroachment continuing, often under the pressure of
- A key player is the Great Ape Survival Project (Grasp),
launched under UN auspices in 2001, which aims to establish strategies
for all regions of Africa and Asia which still have ape populations.
- It holds its first council meeting next week in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.
- © BBC MMV
- Alan Cantwell M.D.
- FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER