Wildlife

Great apes face extinction: conservationist

The world’s great apes face extinction within decades, renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall warned Tuesday in a call to arms to ensure man’s closest relatives are not wiped out.

“If we don’t take action the great apes will disappear, because of both habitat destruction as well as trafficking,” Goodall said in an interview in Nairobi.

In the past half century, chimpanzee numbers have slumped from some two million to just 300,000, spread over 21 countries, said Goodall, a British scientist who spent more than five decades studying chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park.

“If we don’t change something, they certainly will disappear, or be left in tiny pockets where they will struggle from inbreeding,” said 80-year-old Goodall, the first scientist to observe that apes as well as humans use tools.

Experts predict that at the current rate, human development will have impacted 90 percent of the apes’ habitat in Africa and 99 percent in Asia by 2030, according to a UN-backed report last month.

Infrastructure development and extraction of natural resources — including timber, minerals, oil and gas — have devastated the prime habitat of apes and pushed chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons closer to extinction.

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