Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 90 – The Common Chimpanzee


Glitter watches her sister Gaia fish for termites at Gombe National Park.

“Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved”
Jane Goodall

There cannot be many who do not know what a chimpanzee is.  It is probably one of the few wild animals most of us will have actually seen first hand, albeit in captivity.  But where numbers are concerned, captivity is not the problem per se.  It is, of course, Two baby chimpsa huge failure the way chimps are kept as pets and as items of display, to say nothing of the abhorrent practice of using them in so-called ‘science laboratories’.

Currently though, their problem lies in the wild where they are rapidly disappearing down the road marked extinction.  Happy as they are to reproduce, they cannot keep pace with the rate at which they are being killed.

Killed for their meat:  Not just for subsistence – chimp meat now fetches a high price on the open market for those who can afford this shameful diet.
Killed for their young:  Infant chimps are a valuable commodity on the black market.
Killed by diseases introduced by man:  Ebola has devastated whole populations.
Killed for their body parts:  To be used in worthless medicines.
Killed in experimental laboratories:  In the name of science.
Killed by lack of food and shelter:  Africa lost 3.4 million hectares of its forested area between 2000 and 2010 (FAO Global Resources Assessment 2010).  This included a very high percentage of the chimpanzees’ range.

Orphaned chimpsChimpanzees are one of the five great apes, along with gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and man; of those we are the only ones who are flourishing.  Together with their near cousins, the bonobos, chimpanzees are our closest living relatives.  We share almost ninety-nine per cent of our genetic blueprint with them, which is close by any standards.

Currently there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the status of chimps; whether or not they should be considered as proper legal persons, albeit with limited rights.  The argument is not about allowing the normal social liberties associated with being a member of a franchised society, but more about physical freedom and the right to live out their lives in peace, unfettered by the chains of captivity.  It is not proposed the chimps roam freely amongst us, hopping on and off planes, trains and buses, but that they are afforded tranquillity, dignity and sanctuary.

There are some very interesting links below discussing this and other legislation regarding chimpanzees.

Chimps in Uganda - USAID Africa BureauThere are four sub-species of chimpanzee: The Western chimpanzee (P. t. verus), the Central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), the Eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii) and the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti). All four are endangered. Reasons for this vary with location.

Chimpanzees have long arms, and opposable thumbs and big toes.  Their faces, ears, palms and soles of their feet are hairless. Their bodies are covered, in some parts thinly, with dark-brown to black hair.  They can grow quite large, a male chimp reaching over four feet in height, and weighing on average one hundred and thirty pounds.  Females are slightly smaller.

Chimpanzees are largely arboreal.  They swing through trees in search of food, and build nests in them.  They will build a new nest Chimpanzee at the Jane Goodall Institutealmost every day.  They also travel on the ground when covering long distances or in search of food not found in the trees. Although known as ‘knuckle-walkers’, they are capable of standing and walking upright.   Chimpanzees do not like water and cannot swim.  Any who do fall into water are in danger of drowning.

Sounds, facial expressions and body language are all used as forms of communications.  In the case of disputes, unlike their gentle cousins, the bonobos, who tend to kiss and make up, chimpanzees will ready for battle. Common chimpanzees can be quite aggressive and have been known to attack humans, too.  It is never wise to upset a full-grown male chimpanzee.  When angry they are able to draw upon an extraordinary amount of strength and an adult chimp is quite capable of overpowering a fully grown man.

But most of all, chimps have become known for their use of tools.  Most notably, the modification of twigs for extracting termites from mounds and the use of heavy objects to crack nuts.  These are skills that need to be learned.  They have also been observed fashioning spears out of small branches to hunt smaller mammals.

Mother and infant (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) Gombe Stream National ParkChimpanzees breed all the year round.  After a gestation period of eight months, a single infant will be born.  Twins are rare.  Newborns are totally dependent on their mothers (their sole carers) for support for the first two months of their lives. The quality of care the mother gives is essential to the emotional and physical growth and well-being of the infant.  This maternal dependency is long-lasting.  The relationship is close and they are rarely separated.   Babies cling to their mother’s underside at first and progress to the back when they are about five or six months old. By the age of two they will be able to move around and sit unaided, staying very close to mother, and by the age of three they will have started to move a little further away.  But it is not until they are five or six years old that they will be fully weaned and virtually independent.

A great deal of understanding of the behavioural patterns of the chimpanzee can be attributed to the ongoing work of primatologist, Dr Jane Goodall.   Best known for her study of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, Dr Goodall continues to support the chimpanzees to this day, at the age of seventy-nine.  She began her life’s work in 1960 and founded Gombe Stream National Park in 1965.

Natural Habitat
Tropical low altitude evergreen forest, mountain forest and forest-savannah mosaic.
Where
West and Central Equatorial Africa.
What they eat
Mainly fruit, chimpanzees love fruit, but they also eat plants (all parts) and insects. And, contrary to popular belief, chimpanzees are meat-eaters and will indulge themselves in other small mammals from time to time.
Threats
Habitat destruction caused by logging, mining, agriculture and road building. Excessive poaching for bushmeat and the taking of live infants for the illegal pet trade (and it is surprisingly easy to  buy a chimpanzee  on the internet). In some areas, chimpanzees are hunted for their body parts for use in Traditional medicine. They are also used extensively in scientific research. Human conflict over crops is another large problem. But the major threats to chimpanzees are the diseases passed on by humans. In particular, the Ebola virus.
Status: Endangered
The common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  All chimpanzees are listed under CITES Appendix I and as Class A under the African Convention. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service classifies the species as endangered in the wild, and threatened in captivity.

It is thought there are no more than 150,000 to 250,000 common chimpanzees left in the wild today.  This may seem a lot, but compared to the million or so which once roamed free in Africa, it is hardly surprising they are now considered endangered.  Man is killing them faster than the apes can reproduce themselves.  In some regions, the population has declined by 90% over the past twenty years.  In others, the common chimpanzee is now extinct.

Untold numbers of captive individuals exist in zoos, science laboratories, and private homes and establishments.

If more robust action is not taken soon to curb the slaughter of these delightful apes, and the spread of disease is not brought under control, there is a real possibility the chimpanzee may soon be extinct in the wild.

Related Articles
Considering the Humanity of Nonhumans  (New York Times Dec 9th 2013)
Judge Rules Chimps Can’t Be Legal Persons, But Activists Vow to Fight On (Dec 9th 2013)
Chimps give birth like humans
U.S. Research Chimps Heading to New Homes (Op-Ed) (Dec 4th 2013)
Bipartisan Chimpanzee Retirement Legislation Passes Senate (Nov 14th 2013)
Captive Chimpanzees May Get Endangered Status in US (June 11th 2013)
Chimps in Laboratories
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection for All Chimpanzees – Captive and Wild – as Endangered (June 11th 2013)
Illegal marijuana cultivation threatens Nigeria’s forests and chimps (July 26th 2013)

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 82 – Pennant’s Red Colobus


Pennant's Red Colobus

Image courtesy: The Drill Project

“I cannot see how there can be any real and full recognition of Kinship as long as men continue either to cheat or to eat their fellow beings.”
Henry Salt (1851-1939)

On a small, highly biodiverse island in the Gulf of Guinea, there lives a species of monkey which, surprisingly, is not dying out through loss of habitat.   Incredibly, this unfortunate monkey is instead being eaten into extinction.  And, not as a subsistence food either.  The poor cannot afford to eat monkey-meat on the island of Bioko. This Pennant's Red Colobusis strictly the privilege of the more well-to-do.  Oil money has taken care of that, and red colobus is now considered a luxury item on the menu.   As more have developed a penchant for the meat, the price has shot up, trade in the island’s market of Malabo is burgeoning, demand is high, and the red colobus are rapidly declining in numbers. The usual arguments about  the indigenous peoples being hungry and depending on a species for food, are meaningless here.   The  local populace are eating this animal because they want to.

Red colobus weigh in at anything up to twenty-two pounds. They can grow to as much as two feet tall with a slightly longer, non-prehensile tail length of two feet four inches. Typical of its species, Pennant’s red colobus has a small head, a long back and the characteristic red colobus round belly.  Its limbs are long and spindly ending in thumbless, elongated, hook-like fingers.  Its coat comes in various shades of brown and red on the back, with a light underside and orange and black down the sides of the limbs. It has a black fur on its head, which is usually parted down the centre.

The mouth contains specialist molars for softening or breaking up leaves and fruit.  It also has a multi-chambered stomach for fermentation of ingested food.

Pennant's red colobus Red colobus are arboreal, slow and noisy.  When not simply leaping across the branches, they move through them by bending the thinner, more flexible ones and using them as catapults.  They live in groups of twelve to eighty comprising of both male and female individuals, with females outnumbering the males twofold. Females tend to remain with the same group throughout their lives, whilst males move between troops.  They communicate between each other and other troops using a series of barks and squawks.

There is little or no information available about the reproductive habits of Pennant’s Red Colobus (Procolobus pennantii),  so I think it may be fair to assume it will be much the same as say, the Zanzibar red colobus (Procolobus kirkii) which is as follows.
There is no specific breeding season and they mate throughout the year, but the inter-birth interval can be up to three years or more.  The gestation period lasts between five and six months, after which only one baby will be born.  The babies are born altricial. (Please remember, this part is only an assumption)

Habitat
Primary and secondary rain forest, and swamp forestsPennant's red colobus
Where

Equatorial Guinea (the island of Bioko).  Two other sub-species exist in the Niger Delta (Procolobus pennantii epieni) and the Republic of the Congo (Procolobus pennantii bouvieri).
What they eat
Fresh leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.
Threats
The main threat to Pennant’s Red Colobus is commercial hunting for the bushmeat market. Habitat loss has also played a part as has limited range and small numbers.
Status: Endangered
Pennant’s Red Colobus  (Procolobus pennantii ssp. pennantii) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered. It is also listed as one of the  “World’s 25 most endangered primates”.   Almost half the entire red colobus population has been lost to uncontrolled bushmeat hunting over the past two decades.

There are no red colobus monkeys kept in any recognised public zoos or other known approved places operating captive breeding programs.  Though it has been tried, it was found red colobus did not do well in captivity.  

National laws forbid hunting of primates in protected areas, but these laws are not enforced.  

The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program  had this to say:   “The continuing BBPP presence in the marketplace is also a constant reminder to both buyers and sellers that trafficking in primate carcasses is illegal.”

This may well be a constant reminder, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an ongoing deterrent.  With the price of red colobus meat exceeding all expectations in some quarters, it could be some time before an end is brought to this despicable trade.

Related Articles
Moneys slaughtered for meat market on Bioko
Filming in the Caldera de Luba
Winking out in the Niger Delta

Fast Fact Attack – Endangered Species 13: The Western Lowland Gorilla


Western lowland gorilla

Description
Every night, western lowland gorillas build a fresh, leafy nest in which they snuggle down and sleep for about 13 hours. When not sleeping, they are either seeking food or eating it. As gorillas go, they are smaller than their mountain cousins and have shorter hair and longer arms. Despite their huge canine teeth and notably powerful limbs, western lowlands are rarely aggressive. In fact, they are quite gentle. They live in groups led by a dominant ‘silverback’ male. Females give birth after an eight to nine month gestation period, their newborns being surprisingly tiny and weighing in at only about four pounds. The babies learn to crawl at two months and can walk before they are nine months. They ride on their mothers’ backs for the first two or three years of their lives. Gorillas, sadly, have a high infant mortality rate; only half the infants reach maturity. 
Habitat
Lowland tropical forests and swamp forests
Where
West and Central Africa
What they eat
Fruit, leaves, shoots, vines and other such vegetation, and bark; with the occasional termite thrown in for good measure
Threats
Major concerns are the Ebola virus, commercial hunting and hunting by locals for bushmeat.  Habitat destruction is becoming another large factor.
Status: Critically Endangered
Due to such a dramatic decline in numbers (60% over the last 20 to 25 years), attributed mainly to poaching and disease, scientists estimate it will take up to 75 years to fully re-establish the population.

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of humanity.” George Bernard Shaw