Why are chimpanzees endangered?
Chimpanzees are threatened throughout their range, and their numbers are decreasing rapidly as a result of various forms of human encroachment on their traditional habitat. Poaching, forest destruction and disease pose the greatest threats to their survival.
Forest loss and degradation due to the harvesting of timber, commercial mining and agricultural expansion – particularly for oil palm plantations – continue to deprive chimpanzees of vital habitat. Logging and mining roads and oil pipelines are penetrating deeper into remote, previously inaccessible forests, slicing through chimpanzee territory and exposing them to greater hunting pressure.
Chimpanzees are officially protected throughout their range, but poaching is rife, particularly around workers’ camps, where bushmeat is the main source of protein and wildlife can be killed with impunity because law enforcement is virtually non-existent.
Proximity to this growing influx of humans also increases the risk of disease transmission. Chimpanzees are so similar to humans anatomically and genetically that they are susceptible to the same diseases, but their immune response may be less effective due to lack of previous exposure. Infectious diseases, especially Ebola, are causing massive die-offs in chimp populations.
In the absence of adequate law enforcement, the protection nominally afforded to chimpanzees by national and international legislation is largely meaningless. Even the minority of chimps that live in official protected areas are under threat.