Continued destruction of African forests threatens great apes habitat, UN agency says

Continued destruction of African forests threatens great apes habitat, UN agency says

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If the construction of roads, mining camps and other infrastructure continues at current levels for the next 30 years, the great apes of Africa will have less than 10 per cent of their remaining habitat "relatively undisturbed," according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released today.

Findings for the orangutans of Southeast Asia appear even bleaker, as the new report says that by 2030 there will be almost no habitat left that can be considered "relatively undisturbed."

"It is not too late to stop uncontrolled exploitation of these forests," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "By doing so, we may save not only the great apes, but also thousands of other species. By conserving the great apes, we will also protect the livelihoods of the many people that rely on forests for food, medicine and clean water."

The results come from a study by UNEP, which is coordinating the Great Apes Survival Project partnership along with scientists from Norway and the United States, and is based on a pioneering method of evaluating the wider impacts of infrastructure development on key species.

The report examined in detail each of the four great ape species to assess the current habitat deemed relatively undisturbed and thus able to support viable populations of apes. The experts then mapped the likely affect and area of healthy habitat left in 2030 at current levels of infrastructure growth.

While most studies focus on the actual area of land taken by a new road, mining camp or infrastructure development, the Global Methodology for Mapping Human Impacts on the Biosphere method also factors in the wider impacts such as habitat fragmentation and noise disturbance.