San Diego Zoo Joins Forces with Conservationists to Save Endangered Species in Africa

6/27/2011

A historic collaboration of government officials, national and international NGOs and academic researchers, with the goal to determine priority sites and actions required to ensure the survival of an endangered great ape species, has led to the publication of the Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee. This International Union for Conservation of NatureTM-backed conservation plan is the first endorsed by the governments from these nations.

“The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon are the only home of the most endangered form of chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes ellioti, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee,” said Republic of Cameroon Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle. “Both our governments recognize the great importance of biodiversity conservation in safeguarding our natural heritage, and we have therefore been closely involved in the development of this conservation action plan.”

Following four years of collaboration, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Wildlife Conservation Society, State University of New York–Albany, North Carolina Zoo, individuals working with these chimpanzees and conservation practitioners from the region have agreed on a priority list of sites and conservation actions urgently needed to secure the remaining wild populations.

In addition to identifying priority actions specific to each site, the plan considers region-wide actions, such as improving transboundary collaboration and law enforcement, a need for additional conservation research, participation and support of local people, additional recruitment and training of rangers and improving community livelihoods.

“Our conviction is that the proposed measures to conserve the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, such as the protection of forest habitats and the control of hunting, will generate an increase in the chimpanzee population and also benefit many of the other range-restricted, unique and endangered primates as well as other threatened animals found in the same Gulf of Guinea forests,” said Federal Republic of Nigeria Minister of Environment John Odey. “By highlighting chimpanzees as ‘flagship’ species, we will be protecting much of the remaining biodiversity in these areas.”

The Cross River gorilla, drill, Preuss’s monkey and Preuss’s red colobus would also benefit from any protection provided to this chimpanzee subspecies, which is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It was in 1997 that the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee was identified as a distinct subspecies. It is estimated that as few as 3,500 animals may remain in these two countries, making the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee the most endangered chimpanzee in the world.

“The action plans set out the priority sites and actions that need to be instigated if we are to stem the decline in this chimpanzee,” said Bethan Morgan, Ph.D., head of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s Central Africa Program and lead author of the action plan. “Implementation of the recommendations will make a significant difference to the survival of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee by protecting the majority of these populations over the next five years.”

The resulting action plan is a co‑publication between San Diego Zoo Global and the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. Funding to support this process was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Arcus Foundation, San Diego Zoo Global (through the Offield Family Foundation), IUCN and the Primate Action Fund (Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation).

“This action plan is the culmination of years of hard work and will hopefully bring attention to this little-known subspecies of chimpanzee, which is restricted to the Guinean Forests of West Africa, one of the richest and most endangered places on Earth,” said Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, which helped to fund the action plan.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as Wild Animal Park), laboratory work at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 235 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the

Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which includes a 900-acre biodiversity reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI has headquarters in the Washington, DC area, and nearly 900 employees working in more than 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, visit www.conservation.org, and follow us on Twitter: @ConservationOrg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/conservation.intl

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