Thursday, January 30, 2003

BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE

We Must Save Our Cousins the Chimps

Kampala, Jan 28, 2003 (New Vision/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Across Africa the Chimpanzee population is declining due to the loss of habitat

CHIMPANZEES have an axe to grind with their humans cousins. In a wave sweeping through Western Uganda, an influx of human beings has caused massive degradation of the thick forests.

The corridors that were the chimpanzee's natural habitat have been replaced by farmlands and the apes are now hunted by the local communities.

"The endangered apes face extinction if nothing is done about their plight," warns a new report entitled The Status of Chimpanzees in Uganda....

Only 250,000 chimpanzees are now living in the Africa. About one million of them occupied the equatorial belt at the turn of the century. Uganda has been confirmed to have 4,950 chimpanzees, which is about 1,000 higher than the former estimates of "between 3,000 and 4,000," according to the report.

Out of the 20 forests that were surveyed only Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, Bugoma and Rwenzori can sustain chimpanzee populations.

The rest, including the smaller forests connected to the larger forests in Kyenjojo, Kibale, Kabarole, Hoima and Masindi, were found to be under indiscriminate destruction....

Chimpanzees play an important ecological role as seed dispersers and without them the forest would disappear.

"We call them keystone species. They play an important role in the ecology of rain forests," says Debbie Cox, the executive director of JGI in Uganda.

It will be a matter of time before we humans too die if we don't protect our cousins. "We are all interconnected. We need chimps in order to survive and the chimps depend on our responsible use of our environment for their survival," says Cox.