Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

One of the last strongholds for Western chimpanzees

09.04.2014

Liberia is home to the second largest chimpanzee population in West Africa

When Liberia enters the news it is usually in the context of civil war, economic crisis, poverty or a disease outbreak such as the recent emergence of Ebola in West Africa. Liberia’s status as a biodiversity hotspot and the fact that it is home to some of the last viable and threatened wildlife populations in West Africa has received little media attention in the past.


Logistics were extremely challenging because Liberia’s infrastructure was almost completely destroyed during the civil war and because of the remoteness of some of the survey locations.

© MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ J. Junker


Map showing locations of major mining projects, existing and proposed forestry concessions, including Private-Use Permits, proposed and fully protected areas and chimpanzee presence signs. There appears to be considerable overlap between proposed protected areas and mining and/or forestry concessions. The majority of areas in which we found signs of chimpanzee presence have been assigned to mining and forestry concessions. Please note that 29 of the 63 Private-Use Permits shown on this map have recently been withdrawn by the Liberian government.

© (sources: Global Witness, 2012; Forestry Development Authority, unpubl. data

This is partly because the many years of violent conflict in Liberia, from 1989 to 1997 and from 2002 to 2003, thwarted efforts of biologists to conduct biological surveys. An international research team, including scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has now counted chimpanzees and other large mammals living in Liberia.

The census revealed that this country is home to 7000 chimpanzees and therefore to the second largest population of the Western subspecies of chimpanzees. As Liberia has released large areas for deforestation, the local decision-makers can now use the results of this study in order to protect the chimpanzees more effectively.

Following the complete war-time collapse of the country’s economy, Liberia’s government has been trying to fuel economic growth by selling large amounts of its rich natural resources, including rubber, timber and minerals. Here, accurate biological datasets on the distribution and abundance of wildlife populations are key for making evidence-based management decisions that balance economic and conservation priorities.

In addition, they are important for locating and delineating conservation priority areas, making assessments of anthropogenic threats, and proposing mitigation measures to policy-makers.

To close this data gap, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Bedfordshire, UK, via the Across the River Project, together with experienced rangers from the Forestry Development Authority in Liberia, local research assistants from Liberia and Sierra Leone and graduate students from the University of Liberia, embarked on a remarkably ambitious project: a survey of chimpanzees and other large mammals across the entire country of Liberia. For two years, the survey teams searched for the presence of chimpanzees and other large mammals in more than 100 locations throughout the country.

“This project was logistically very challenging”, says corresponding author Jessica Junker, who also supervised all data collection in the field. “To reach these locations, we occasionally had to drive for two days, then continue on motorbikes for several hours before embarking on a 20 to 30 kilometres hike during which we sometimes had to cross rivers, climb mountains and pass through steep valleys.” But the effort paid off. With an estimated population of more than 7000 individuals, Liberia now officially holds the second largest population of West African chimpanzees after Guinea. Even more excitingly for conservation, due to its relatively wide and continuous distribution within the country, the chimpanzee population of Liberia is also probably one of most viable chimpanzee populations in West Africa, making it a regional conservation priority.

Surprisingly, the survey results showed that more than 70 percent of the chimpanzees as well as some of the most species-diverse communities of large mammals occurred outside the fully-protected areas, which currently include only 3.8 percent of the country’s forests. In 2003, the Liberian government agreed to increase the extent of the protected area network to conserve at least 30 percent of the country’s forests. “The results of our study provide crucial information for site prioritization and selection in this ongoing process,” says lead author Clement Tweh of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation in Liberia. “For example, the shape and location of some of the proposed protected areas might have to be re-considered. Also, it will be necessary to rapidly implement full protection status for proposed conservation priority areas, as future mining and forestry projects are encroaching fast.”

Since the ban on timber exports was repealed in 2006, more than 20,000 square kilometres of forest have already been assigned as forestry concessions and awarded to international and local investors. Additionally, since 2010, logging companies were issued so-called Private Use Permits, which were subject to virtually no sustainability requirements and accounted for almost half of Liberia’s remaining primary forest. Fortunately, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently withdrew almost half of these allocations, thus saving tens of thousands of square kilometres of primary tropical rainforest. “Our survey makes it clear that this action has also saved a large number of West African chimpanzees,” says co-author Menladi Lormie, Max Planck researcher and FDA ecologist, of the President’s decision.

This survey showed that in areas where primary rainforest was still abundant, hunting was the anthropogenic threat most frequently encountered, followed by logging, mining and non-timber forest product extraction. “This combination of large-scale habitat destruction and high hunting rates may seriously jeopardize the long-term survival of Liberia’s wildlife populations”, says Dr. Annika Hillers, co-author of the article and conservation scientist for The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the Gola Forests, Sierra Leone and Liberia. “With this study, we provide an accurate and comprehensive data-based platform for local wildlife protection authorities, policy-makers and international conservation agencies to inform effective conservation strategies to best protect what is left of this country’s rich wildlife heritage”.

 Contact 

Sandra Jacob
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-122
Fax: +49 341 3550-119
 
Jessica Junker
Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-805
Email:jessica_junker@eva.mpg.de
 
Clement Tweh
Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF)
Phone: +231 886 926-627
Email:clementweh2g10@gmail.com
 

Original publication

 
Clement G. Tweh, Menladi M. Lormie, Célestin Y. Kouakou, Annika Hillers Hjalmar S. Kühl and Jessica Junker
Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, 9 April 2014

Sandra Jacob | Max-Planck-Institut

Further reports about: Chimpanzee Evolutionary chimpanzees hunting mammals populations

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Coorong Fish Hedge Their Bets for Survival
27.03.2015 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Greener Industry If Environmental Authorities Change Strategy
27.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

BLS Cargo orders 15 multisystem locomotives

30.03.2015 | Press release

Shark Tagged by NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute Is Apparently Enjoying Time in Warm, Tropical Waters

30.03.2015 | Life Sciences

Antarctic Ice Shelves Rapidly Thinning

30.03.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>