Wednesday, September 04, 2002

THE ROAD AHEAD FOR NONHUMAN GREAT APES

Apes' habitat 'vanishing fast'
BY Alex Kirby BBC News Online environment correspondent in Johannesburg

[Photo: Chimps in forest] The great apes are under threat

...Unep published its report - The Great Apes - The Road Ahead - at the World Summit on Sustainable Development here. It details the findings of scientists working for Unep's Great Apes Survival Project (Grasp)....

Dr Klaus Toepfer, Unep's Executive Director, said at the report's launch: "Roads are being built in the few remaining pristine forests of Africa and south-east Asia to extract timber, minerals and oil. Uncontrolled road construction in these areas is fragmenting and destroying the great apes' last homes. This makes it easier for poachers to slaughter them for meat, and it makes their young more vulnerable to capture for the illegal pet trade...."

Dr Jane Goodall began studying chimpanzees in east Africa in 1960. "Chimpanzees resemble humans not only genetically and anatomically, but in their behaviour," she said. They have long-term affectionate and supportive relationships, they sometimes make war - although more often they're loving. "And they can be altruistic. We can see the same kind of behaviour in the three other great ape species. "All have minds that can solve simple problems, and all have feelings. So it's a moral responsibility to save them from extinction...."