Save The Chimpanzees

by Katie McCabe  |  @awelltraveledpair  |  November 29th, 2017

It's no secret that I am a huge animal lover, a trait I definitely inherited from my father. I've always felt a strong bond towards animals, especially one in particular - the chimpanzee. I can remember being a child and my dad asking me what I wanted for my birthday. From age five until maybe fourteen, I told him I wanted a baby chimpanzee. Obviously I never got that chimpanzee, and for good reason. Chimpanzees belong in their natural habitat - the African wilderness - where they can flourish and live productive lives. Today, that habitat, and the chimpanzees that live there, are in great danger. In just a few short decades, the chimpanzee population has dropped from over one million to a devastating 170,000, mainly due to habitat loss, poaching, and disease. Chimpanzees are now extinct in four African countries and are severely threatened in the remaining twenty-one. We, as humans, need to protect our closest living relatives from becoming extinct. I know I don't want to imagine a world without these beautiful animals in it, and if you don't either, then please read the ways you can help prevent chimpanzee extinction.

Habitat Loss

African forests where the chimpanzees live are continually getting destroyed. Land development, mining, oil drilling, sugar & palm oil production, and logging all contribute to the habitat destruction in Africa. This destruction causes the chimpanzees to become isolated in small patches of land and without access to many of their resources. It also leaves them more vulnerable to poaching. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Jane Goodall Institute are all participating in creating a conservation plan to protect the forests. Every day, organizations like these fight to help the chimpanzees and the land that they call home. 

Poaching

The illegal bushmeat trade has become a major problem in Africa. Chimpanzees and other apes are being hunted, killed, and sold for their meat. The demand for this meat comes from wealthy residents who believe that eating the apes will make them stronger. To make matters worse, the orphaned baby chimpanzees, who are too small to kill for food, are sold on the exotic pet market. The World Wildlife Fund is a great example of an organization that provides amazing on-ground efforts in Africa to prevent poaching for bushmeat. WWF donates food and supplies to anti-poachers as well as financial support to the locals who feel they need to hunt apes in order to provide for their families. New international efforts are also being made to help stop the illegal bushmeat trade and many campaigns have been started to discourage people from eating the meat of endangered animals, such as chimpanzees. 

Disease

Diseases, such as Ebola, have spread throughout Africa and not only affected humans, but have also affected chimpanzees. Odzala National Park, a park known to have the highest density of great apes in Africa, reported a massive negative impact on chimpanzees after an Ebola breakout in 2002. Due to habitat loss, humans and chimpanzees are now living in closer proximity to one another causing disease to spread a lot easier to the apes. The Wildlife Conservation Society has set up a vast surveillance network to monitor and rapidly test for the Ebola virus in the most populated ape areas. Local organizations have also put strict regulations in order to make sure locals and visitors are tested and / or vaccinated before visiting ape conservation areas. 

How You Can Help

1. Recycle old electronics (cell phones, laptops, iPads, computers, etc). Colton, a component in electronics, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the highest population of chimpanzees.

2. If you need to purchase wood, be sure to purchase sustainably logged wood products.

3. When purchasing products that contain palm oil, check the label to ensure that only "certified sustainable palm oil" is being used. This small action on your part significantly helps wildlife. Popular products that use palm oil are lipstick, shampoo, peanut butter, chocolate, potato chips, cookies, and pizza dough. 

4. Reuse, reduce, and recycle.

5. Rethink gold and diamond purchases. 

6. Support laws protecting endangered species.

7. Support sustainable ecotourism in range countries. 

8. When visiting areas with protected wildlife, be aware of what you leave behind and always follow health regulations. 

9. Support organizations that work with local communities where chimpanzees live, as such: World Wildlife Fund, Jane Goodall Institute, and Wildlife Conservation Society

10. Spread the word. A lot of people are uninformed about endangered species, or how they can help. Knowledge is power!

Chimpanzee Facts

1. Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing over 98% of our genetic DNA.

2. The average lifespan of a chimpanzee is fifty to sixty years. 

3. Chimpanzees show affection by hugging, kissing, and grooming each other. They also love to be tickled, and will laugh just like us. 

4. Chimpanzees are extremely intelligent and are known for making tools and can even learn human sign language.

5. Chimpanzees live in communities of about fifty members. 

6. Female chimpanzees give birth to one baby every five to six years. The gestation period is 8.5 months. 

7. A chimpanzees strength is seven times that of a human. 

8. Chimpanzees have opposable thumbs on both their hands and feet. 

9. A chimpanzee's diet consists mainly of fruits, nuts, leaves, and flowers. 

10. Chimpanzees are an endangered species. Years ago, the chimpanzee population in Africa averaged around one million. Today, it is sadly only 170,000.