Study identifies factors to help save great apes
African great apes are in jeopardy; their populations are shrinking, particularly for those located in areas that are managed poorly and protected weakly. A new international study provides fresh insight into how the hardest hit areas of the last 20 years are those that are not well protected against poaching. The study, presented in the journal Conservation Letters, suggests law enforcement is crucial to help secure the future of the great apes.
Scientists from Australia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Nigeria, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States collected data generated over a 20-year period from 109 management areas. They discovered that extensive presence of local and international non-governmental organisation (NGO) support and law enforcement guards play the most important role for ensuring ape survival. The team found that research and tourism are also key factors in helping the great apes. They also have a measurable impact, according to the researchers.
Contrary to NGO and law enforcement support, national development and high population density have an adverse impact on the great ape. Effective measures should be introduced so as to ensure the future of natural resources as well as the future of the great ape populations.
This study is the first of its kind to quantify how conservation activity helps mitigate the risk of extinction of a species, namely gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees. The researchers say the data as well as environmental and anthropogenic variables confirm that prolonged conservation efforts lead to a measurable decrease of the probability of apes going extinct. The longer they last, the lower the probability.
'The results confirm and prove quantitatively that the most influential risk for ape disappearance is the lack of law enforcement guards, rather than the absence of tourism and research, which nevertheless remain activities with a measurable positive impact,' says lead author Sandra Tranquilli of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. 'Furthermore, ape persistence is positively influenced by the presence of non-governmental organisation support.'
Commenting on the importance of this study, Hjalmar Kuehl, also of the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, says: 'Remaining wilderness areas are disappearing at a rate which is unimaginable for most people. If we want to preserve some of these places for the future, we need many more studies of this type. These studies help to better understand which conservation measures are more efficient and into which conservation activities the limited available resources should best be invested. This information will help to increase the effectiveness of conservation measures by maximising the return on invested resources.'
The Wildlife Conservation Society's Fiona Maisels comments: 'This is an excellent example of evidence-based conservation research, where conservation activities and strategies are evaluated quantitatively. Our findings will ensure the best use of the limited human and financial resources available, particularly in terms of effective law enforcement on the ground.'
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Data Source Provider: Conservation Letters; MPI Evolutionary Anthropology
Document Reference: Tranquilli, S. et al. (2011) 'Lack of conservation effort rapidly increases African great ape extinction risk'. Conservation Letters, published 8 December. DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2011.00211.x
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Environmental Protection; Life Sciences; Regional Development; Scientific Research; Sustainable development