For the last few decades, a great ape population has plummeted dramatically. For million years, African and Indonesian primates were a great dominating lineage among ecosystems of the Earth. Unfortunately, the majority of great apes species face the danger of extinction nowadays. Sumatra orangutans live in outrageous conditions, and the population of eastern lowland gorillas has increased to the low thousands recently. Scientists suppose that until the end of the 21st century, one or more species of primates will totally disappear or remain in tiny numbers in protected wildlife sanctuaries. It is high time the humanity considered the problem of primate conservation if we need to see them in our planet fauna.
Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at the University of Southern California Craig Stanford in his latest publication Planet without Apes urged actions for the humankind to ensure the survival of great apes having described the immediate problems primates’ population face. The author described problems that primates face in their intention to survive and depicted the loss of great apes populations as the loss of unique cultural traditions.
The four great apes species under discussion include the chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutan, and gorilla, which are familiar to everybody. At the same time, few of us know that the number of the primates continues to decline in their natural habitat. Most of threats great apes face come as a result of humans' activity. In Western and Central Africa, great apes are hunted for meat. For thousands of years, Africans have hunted apes for food. However, current growing commercial trade of "bushmeat" considerably threatens the survival of great apes. Thousands of gorillas die from outbreaks of various emerging viruses like Ebola. Rainforests - natural habitat of great apes - are cut down to create villages, farms, and plantations.
The loss of tropical forests habitat is among the major threats to the population of great apes. For the last three decades, vast areas of African forests were divided by roads, while in Borneo, forests have been replaced by palm oil plantations. Additionally, the chimpanzees, the sister species of the humankind, are still used in different biomedical researches. It is obvious that without urgent and intense efforts in terms of great apes conservation, people risk the future biodiversity of the Earth.
It is common knowledge that the ecotourism belongs to the factors that save wildlife and natural habitat. One may ask if there are any negative features of ecotourism in terms of the situation with great apes. Stanford (2012) considers ecotourism as a double-edged sword, which threatens the life of the very animal it is intended to help. Ecotourism is beneficial economically. At the same time, it can be a boon to conservation efforts. If apes are regularly visited by tourists, they become more vulnerable to human viruses and diseases. Unlike with humans, the diseases can devastate the entire animal community.
Conservation of the great apes depends on a host of factors. Nothing can be done without the engagement of the countries in which primates live. The government should take actions to stop cutting down rain forests or ban commercial hunting. In terms of the nations with little infrastructure, political stability and increased living standards may improve wildlife conservation outlook.
Is humankind ready to live on the planet without apes? The chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas live in terrible conditions and face a number of problems in their daily struggle for survival. It is up to the humanity to conserve the planet's wildlife and not to stay alone in the Earth's biodiversity.
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