Conservation Biology

Friday, March 23, 2007


The great apes (bonobos, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutants) will be extinct if their killing is not stopped in the year 2035 (1). The loss of the great apes is caused by two major factors: forest destruction and their use as bushmeat. Bushmeat is defined as the meat obtained from wild animals (1). Destruction of forest is defined as clearing of the indigenous forest without reforestation. The demand for the bushmeat is growing.

Gorillas and chimpanzees are killed everyday in the central and Western Congo basin and in the central Africa for bushmeat (1). It is estimated that in Congo basin 5million tonnes of meat of the great apes is consumed per annum amounting to the value between 100million and 10million pounds (2). The great apes were hunted and eaten illegally in the past decade but the trade of the bushmeat is still operating underground. I was not aware that the meat of gorilla in the Congo basin worth five times the price of the beef.

Trading in bushmeat is operated by the people from both rich and poor countries (2). Several companies from rich countries are involved in the hunting of the great apes, because they help local people in the trading of the meat, recruit people to sell and buy the bushmeat, provide transportation, ammunitions and machine guns to the local people (4). The international trade of the meat of the great apes which is illegal is on the increase (4).

Many people from Africa now have migrated to the bigger cities around the world such as New York and London and left their grandmothers and other families in Africa. When there is an occasion back home in Africa, the meat which is often eaten is that of one of the great apes (2). In Africa, poverty is cited as the main reason for trading of the bushmeat. The money generated in the trading of the bushmeat is used to buy the basic daily needs which include: fuel, salt and medicine (2). People who are rich and restaurants know exactly where to buy the bushmeat.

Although there is no exact number of how many great apes left around the world, but very few animals left. It is estimated that in central Africa the number of gorillas is low and in Borneo and Sumatra the number of the orangutans is 15000 (1). The chimpanzees are also threatened with extinction and it is difficult to find the population of bonobos as they are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is dominated by the ethnic war but the number is also down at approximately 15000 (1).

Deforestation is also a major threat which can lead to the extinction of the great apes. People are creating the space to live and for development by clearing the forests. As the great apes are dependent on the forest for food especially the fruits and their movement from one tree to another, they now find it difficult because of the scarcity of their food and the habitat which is now shrinking at an alarming rate.
Conservation biologists must advise logging companies from Europe to construct roads that lead to the forest which were previously not penetrated and stop their trucks from transporting the meat of the great apes to the major cities around the world (3).


1. Gould, A. B. 1999. Gorilla on a plate. [Online]. Available from:

2. Douala, C. R. 2004. Great apes face extinction. [Online]. Available from:,13369,1340363,00.html

3. Strieker, G. 1999. Growing demand for bushmeat threatens great apes. [Online]. Available from:

4. Streiker, G. 1998. Poachers killing gorillas, chimps for bushmeat delicacy. [Online]. Available from:

Peter Muvhali
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  • Forest destruction is the biggest(threats) problem to Orang-utans compare to other great apes. The whole lives depend on the vegetation. The use vegetation to make build their nests and shelter under the leafy braches. They travel by moving from one tree to another. They also use wood to make tools for example sticks are used to dig on the ground, and used to fight. Orang-utans also use vegetation to scratch as well as to eat. People destroy the habitats of Orang-utans by burning the wild for agricultural. An oil palm plantation in Asia also contributed in the reduction of the Orangutans‘s habitats. So a protection on great ape’s habitats is really needed before they become extinct.

    By Blogger Masingita Lizzy, at March 26, 2007 9:37 AM  

  • Hi Peter

    I enjoyed reading your article but I have this question, You said that "Gorillas and chimpanzees are killed everyday in the central and Western Congo basin and in the central Africa for bush meat" what I need to know is whether these great apes are living in a protected area or unprotected? If the area is not protected then they are vulnerable to the entire list you made which is leading to their extinction. I can simply recommend that it can be easier for the central and western Congo management to place these threatened species in protected areas like parks or game reserves, where they will be safe. If they are placed in protected areas it can be easier for them to produce in abundance and if they are overpopulated its then that some of them can be used for bush meat but in a monitored way. This can also help those who are hunting them for meat purpose as trespassers will not be allowed.

    By Blogger Dianah Nangammbi, at March 26, 2007 9:54 AM  

  • The Kwele and Djem ethnic group of Northen Congo kill gorilla for circumcision ceremony. Teenagers are expected to eat gorilla meat because gorilla is highly considered as courage. Some gorilla are killed so that their can be used in magic religious practice known as fetishes. Sometimes chiefs request a gorilla to be killed to obtain body part required by marabouts (a group of Muslim holy men)
    For example, the heart is a symbol of force, the cranium is consumed for dignity. The Kwele and Djem also kill gorilla for social status for example a hunter is accepted as a hunter if he managed to kill a gorilla (1).

    Great apes are protected by Great Ape Conservation Act of 1999. The purpose of the Act is “to perpetuate viable population of the great apes in the wild. To assist in the conservation and protection of great apes by supporting conservation program of countries in which they are located?” In 2000, Senator Jefford (during the conference in Kenya) estimated that if gorillas, bonobos and orangutans are not conserved, they may be extinct in the next 50 years.” (2)

    1. Gami N. 2000. Reaction of ebola in some great ape hunting communities of Northern Congo. [Online] [cited 2007 Mar 26]. Available from:

    2. Animal Welfare Institute. Disappearing Planet of the Apes. Southern [Online] 2000 Apr 10 [cited 2007 Mar 26] 49(2): Spring. Available from:

    By Blogger Kedibone, at March 26, 2007 1:04 PM  

  • hi Peter

    do you mean that people can kill the great apes for now since the killing of great apes will be stopped in 2035? what can be done in order to stop these people from killing the great apes?

    By Blogger Lethabo, at March 26, 2007 2:22 PM  

  • Hi peter

    Well, I really enjoyed your article; it is so interesting that in most central African countries, people eat apes. I have never heard of these cases in South Africa. Deforestation is really a serious problem which is posing a serious threat to our biodiversity. It will be a good idea in to have national parks or reserves in those countries where these apes face threat. Anti-poachers need to patrol the conserved and managed areas. More needs to be done before year 2035 to prevent the extinction of these great apes.


    By Blogger Lufuno, at March 26, 2007 2:46 PM  

  • An interesting topic. Growth of population and development of countries result in habitant destruction. Most wild animals are threatened by the acts that are changing the environment. The involvement of poverty in African countries also contributes in destructing the habitant of endangered animals. The must be involvement of government to regulate the conservation of wild animal and biodiversity. Pouching of great apes need to be addressed in all sphere of the country. It can be suggested that forest that great apes are found need to be protected and the must be a rangers that monitor poachers in the area. Organisation like society for the prevention of cruelty to animal international (SPCA) have to monitor the Meat that are sold in the market to identify if is for animal that are facing threat. Community that are utilising the endangered species and deforestation the forest need to be educated about the importance of the wild species and the forest.

    By Blogger Elelwani, at March 26, 2007 2:53 PM  

  • I am just wondering what is influencing people to eat or hunt the apes, because, Peter you indicated that trading of the bush meat occurs both in rich and poor countries. I really doubt if people are hunting the threatened species due to poverty only, there should be something that is also encouraging people to hunt them. You also indicated that the meat of gorilla in the Congo basin is five times the price of beef, which make it more expensive. As a result, people are continuing buying the meat. I suggest that the bush meat is more tasty or delicious compare to beef or any other reasons that I do not know.

    I agree with Elelwani’s comment about the involvement of the SPCA and I believe if the SPCA can monitor the meat before being sold to people. The butcheries or individuals found selling the meat of the threatened animals must be prosecuted. The threatened animals must also be protected worldwide.

    By Blogger Maleka Evelyn, at March 27, 2007 10:31 AM  

  • Hi Elelwani and Evelyn

    Thank you for your input. I agree with both of you that the SPCA must be involved, but it will only be involved in South Africa where people do not eat the bushmeat of the great apes. The eating of the busmeat of the great apes is dominant in central Africa and Western Africa in the countries such as Cameroon, Burundi, Somalia and Rwanda. I do not know if those countries have a non-governmental organization such as the SPCA.

    By Blogger peter, at March 27, 2007 2:23 PM  

  • Hi Lethabo

    I am not saying that people must continue with the killing of the great apes. I mean if people continue in the killing of the great apes like they are doing now especially in central and western Africa where the bushmeat sells like a hot cake, the great apes will be finished.

    By Blogger peter, at March 27, 2007 2:29 PM  

  • Hi Peter

    Goodall's Great Apes Survival Project (Gasp)it is more concern about the preservation of the primates.It is influencing African governments through the United Nations Environment Programme to pay more attention in protecting the apes i the forest. The most affected states in the bush-meat crisis are the Central African Republic. More than 700 scientist and ecologist are involved in research on the bush-meat crisis and diseases affecting primate communities around the world.

    Indeed is cruel practice that does not consider the welfare implications to apes society as a whole. Killing of apes really it sending a disturbing massege to the world about Africa's attitude towards wildlife management.

    By Blogger Ramapulana, at March 28, 2007 10:26 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 21, 2007 6:16 PM  

  • I'd like to comment on your latest post, the post regarding golden moles - and repeat as I've done many times to many conservation-misguided South Africans that killing the hill creating moles in your garden serves no purpose!

    They seem to think that destroying the golden mole population to protect their suburban lawns is a suitable pastime, but not only do they threatens the existence of an entire species but create an imbalance in an already threatened ecosystem. To explain that cutworms and other subsurface, uninhibited insects can do more damage to their precious lawns and shrubs seems futile.

    Hopefully somewhere alone the way my rantings will serve their purpose.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 21, 2007 6:21 PM  

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