From: Jeremy Lovell, Reuters
Published September 1, 2005 12:00 AM

New Atlas Highlights Plight of World's Great Apes

LONDON — The first detailed global map of the world's great apes -- from gorillas to orangutans -- shows they are in deep trouble.


The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation, published by the United Nations to coincide with world great apes day on Thursday, illustrates the need for concerted international action, the U.N. said.


The U.N. described the atlas as "the most comprehensive compendium of information about great apes ever compiled".


The 23 states in which the apes live in the wild are among the world's poorest. Poverty, encroachments caused by logging and population growth, the booming bushmeat trade, disease and climate change are threatening entire species.


"We have a duty to rescue our closest living relatives as part of our wider responsibilities to conserve the ecosystems they inhabit," said U.N. Environment Programme chief Klaus Toepfer.


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The atlas says 16 of the states where the eastern and western gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans roam have per capita incomes of less than $800 a year.


Already more than a dozen key locations -- from Cameroon to the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- have been identified as priority sites for gorillas and chimpanzees, and more are expected to be added in coming years.


The atlas was published a day after conservationists called for a five-year, $30 million plan to try to save some of the most threatened great ape species in Africa.


In Asia orangutans are predicted to lose nearly half of their habitat within five years through mining, logging and human encroachment.


"Within a generation -- without better protection -- we could see species becoming too depleted to survive long term in the wild," said atlas editors Julian Caldecott and Lera Miles.


Ian Singleton, scientific director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, also made a stark forecast.


"Fifty years from now only seven of the current 13 orangutan populations are expected to remain. Of these, six will consist of fewer than 20 individuals," he said.


It is not only human activities that are threatening to eradicate the great apes -- diseases like Ebola haemorrhagic fever are also speeding their demise.


"Local people's attitudes are critical to the survival of the apes in any given area, so projects that help to develop sustainable livelihoods in tandem with ape protection will be most successful," said broadcaster Charlotte Uhlenbroek.


Source: Reuters


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