Great apes face extinction: conservationist Jane Goodall


Share post:

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.

Great apes face extinction: conservationist Jane Goodall
A chimpanzee at the zoo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 2014 
[Credit: AFP/Sia Kambou]

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

In the past half century, chimpanzee numbers have slumped from 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 in-breeding,” 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.

‘We’re schizophrenic’

For Goodall, the destruction is part of mankind’s wider attack on nature.

“If we don’t do anything to protect the environment, which we’ve already partially destroyed, I wouldn’t want to be a child being born in 50 years time,” Goodall added.

“We’re schizophrenic: we’ve got this amazing intelligence, but we seem to have lost the power of working in harmony with nature.”

Great apes face extinction: conservationist Jane Goodall
British primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall gestures as she gives a talk on
 her new book “Seeds of Hope” in Nairobi, Kenya in July 2014
 [Credit: AFP/Tony Karumba]

As well as a tragic loss, Goodall said the death of man’s closet relatives would act as a stark warning sign of climate change and global warming.

“If we lose them (apes), it is probably because we have also lost the forests, and that would have a totally devastating impact on climate change,” she said.

“Climate change is so evident everywhere. There are leaders who say they don’t believe in climate change, but I can’t believe they really believe that, maybe they are just stupid.”

All species of apes are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), some critically so.

‘Your life makes a difference’

“People are losing the connection to the natural world,” said Goodall.

“You’d think that the most intellectual creature on the planet would know better than to destroy its only home, but we are destroying the planet very, very quickly.”

Great apes face extinction: conservationist Jane Goodall
Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in a close-up portrait in the

 of Borneo.Orang Utans are critically endangered, mostly
because their

 habitat has decreased rapidly due to logging [Credit:

But Goodall, who has set up volunteer conservation groups across the continent, urges people not to despair but to take action.

“Climate change threatens every little part of the planet, and we can’t stop that, but if we get together we can help to slow the effects,” she said.

Goodall recounted how in war-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, children inspired by her conservation group negotiated with a local militia force, persuading the intially puzzled commander to give them access to replant trees on a hillside.

“Within 30 minutes, all four soldiers with them had laid aside their guns and were helping the children to plant the trees,” she said. “It is symbolic of what can happen if we can work together.”

“My last message to everybody, really, is to understand that your life matters, your life makes a difference,” she said.

“So many people give up and they feel hopeless.. and so do nothing. But if you take action locally, you can do something.”

Source: AFP [July 29, 2014]



Related articles

Biologist’s research helps protect rainforest monkey from illegal hunting

Research by University of Sussex environmental biologist Dr Mika Peck and environmental campaigners has helped to protect vulnerable...

Extinct lakes of the American desert west

The vestiges of lakes long extinct dot the landscape of the American desert west. These fossilized landforms provide...

Myanmar’s extensive forests are declining rapidly due to political and economic change

The loss of intact forest cover in Myanmar has accelerated over the last decade, according to a study...

International researchers discover ongoing and future tropical diversity decline

How can patterns in the marine biodiversity of the past help us to understand how it may change...

Geologists peer into the past to answer one of the Grand Canyon’s oldest questions

On a recent 11-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon, geologists gathered evidence in hope that it would...

When Europe was flooded by the oceans

In a new study, University of Bristol Palaeobiology Masters student Harriet Williams and colleagues have just published details...

Antarctic study digs for clues to penguin past

Happy Feet's distant relatives might one day become victims of climate change. Experts warn the effects of a...

The Earth beneath us may be shifting – not static

Ground-breaking research into the hot structures deep in the Earth suggest they could be much more fluid than...