Currently, Africa has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. The continent’s 1999 population of 767 million people is projected to have more than doubled by 2050, according to UN population figures. This tremendous population growth places unsustainable demands on the land, mostly from the commercial trade in timber, mining products, and bushmeat. Trees are cut for firewood and building poles. Forests are clear-cut to make room for living space, crops and grazing livestock. Human-wildlife conflict has escalated drastically as competition for precious natural resources intensifies.
Naturally, all this human activity takes a toll on the land and the wildlife. Chimpanzee populations are no exception. At one point, chimpanzees lived in 25 African countries. Today, due to the loss of habitat - one of the greatest threats chimpanzees face today – chimpanzees are found in only 21 African countries.
One of JGI’s primary goals is to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. While doing this, we also work to create sustainable livelihoods for locals. JGI’s efforts to conserve chimpanzees and their habitat include:
Conservation Action Planning
. Protecting chimpanzees and their habitats requires an integrated approach that looks beyond the boundaries of protected areas; after all, many chimpanzees live or travel outside of these borders. JGI’s approach, based on a method developed by The Nature Conservancy
, involves assembling wildlife and conservation experts, NGOs and government representatives to identify and prioritize threats to entire ecosystems and strategies to mitigate them. Strategies address relevant regional environmental, economic development and socio-economic needs and realities.
Law Enforcement. Establishing protected areas through the demarcation of reserves and national parks is an important first step in protecting habitats. Unfortunately, most governments lack the resources to adequately protect chimpanzees and other species from poachers, particularly hunters traveling by foot, who are able to penetrate forests much more deeply than a vehicle. JGI helps fill the gap by training, managing and equipping law enforcement personnel. In the Republic of Congo, for example, JGI trains and manages eco-guards who protect the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, JGI has trained law enforcement personnel on the threats to chimpanzees and laws in place to protect them.
Protected Area Management. Just as governments overseeing protected areas may lack the resources to adequately protect chimpanzees, they may require added resources to effectively manage the areas. JGI helps fill this gap in a variety of ways. In the Republic of Congo, for example, JGI is conducting surveys that will support the government’s expansion of the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve. In Tanzania, JGI played a key role in helping the Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) prepare and adopt a comprehensive management plan for Gombe National Park. In addition, JGI has helped TANAPA research and address issues related to the health of humans and chimpanzees within the park.
Snare Removal. Poachers plant wire and rope snares on the forest floors, where the traps can catch and strangle chimpanzee hands and feet, causing grave injury or even death. With the paid help of former poachers, JGI has removed tens of thousands of the illegal snares in three forest blocks in Uganda, including Kibale National Park, the Kalinzu Forest Reserve, and the Budongo Forest Reserve.
Ecotourism. JGI’s chimpanzee conservation efforts include working with communities to develop and promote sustainable livelihoods. Given that African wildlife is a huge draw for tourists, ecotourism is an obvious opportunity. In Uganda, JGI has helped establish ecotourism centers that allow tourists to view chimpanzees in their habitat. Similarly, JGI Uganda works with local women to market their crafts to tourists traveling to the region to view the chimpanzees. Ecotourism efforts such as these help educate local people and visitors about the importance of protecting chimpanzees and their habitats.