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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