Commercial hunters abetted by wars and logging companies are a grave threat to chimpanzees across central Africa, renowned chimp conservationist Jane Goodall said Tuesday. "The hunters are now able to go deep into the forest because they ride on the logging trucks on the roads that have been built by the logging companies," Goodall told a news conference. Chaos and armed conflict in central Africa has made it difficult to enforce laws protecting the animals, she said.
Hunters shoot chimpanzees and then smoke and sell the meat, "even shipping it off to exotic restaurants," said Goodall, who has been studying chimpanzees in northwestern Tanzania for 40 years.
Hunting and the destruction of forests for firewood and timber have reduced the chimpanzee population in 21 African nations from 2 million a century ago to 220,000 today, she said.
Because they are very slow breeders and give birth only at five year intervals, she said, the species could be on its way to extinction if nothing is done to protect the animals and their habitat.
Goodall said when she arrived in Gombe National Park in 1960, 150 chimpanzees lived there. With the encroachment of refugees from Congo who kill chimps for food and sometimes transmit human diseases to them, the population has dwindled to 110.
People who live in the region traditionally have hunted chimpanzees for food, but commercial hunting has greatly increased the numbers of animals killed, she said.
"We are training young people to change their desire to eat chimpanzees and develop an appetite for other meat like goat," Goodall said.
Trade in chimpanzee and gorilla meat is widespread throughout central Africa, even though both are protected species in the countries where they are hunted.
The World Wide Fund for Nature says chimpanzee and gorilla meat is commercially available for sale in central Africa and is on restaurant menus in Paris and Brussels. The meat is served dried or smoked and as steak or in stews. (AP, 3. Juli 2001)