Wild ape population undergoing 'catastrophic' decline

April 7, 2003 9:15 a.m.

The population of apes in Western Equatorial Africa has declined severely over the last 20 years and, without aggressive intervention, may soon reach the "brink of extinction," a study has found.

In a process that went largely unnoticed, years of illegal hunting and an epidemic of Ebola virus have slashed the population of wild chimpanzees and gorillas by more than 50 percent in the last part of the world to have widespread ape habitats, according to the study, which was published in an online edition of Nature April 6. The findings contradict estimates, from as recently as 1995, that the number of wild apes has been relatively stable.

"The species that are most similar to humans are just disappearing before our eyes," said Peter Walsh, a Princeton University scientist who led an international group of 23 researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other institutions.

The study authors called for immediate improvements in anti-hunting law enforcement and in Ebola research and intervention. "The stark truth is that if we do not act decisively our children may live in a world without wild apes," the researchers concluded.

The full story is available in a news release .

Contact: Lauren Robinson-Brown (609) 258-3601