Saving The Great Apes Of Central Africa
May 22, 2013

Manual Released For The Protection Of Great Apes In Central Africa: WCS

Rayshell Clapper for - Your Universe Online

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently released a manual on protecting great apes in Central African forests. The manual is a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is a collaboration between authors from WCS, IUCN, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Lincoln Park Zoo, and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The report seeks to ensure the survival of the great apes. As the authors wrote, “The incorporation of measures and safeguards for the protection of resources important for great apes in Forestry Management Plans, government Standard Operating Procedures, certification schemes and review processes would also greatly improve the conservation outlook of the gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos in Central Africa.”

The 39-page manual outlines the information necessary to understand how much great apes are actually endangered in Central Africa. The current focus of many conservation efforts is on great apes already in protected areas; however much of the region´s rainforests used by great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees rest outside of these protected areas in lands used for logging, mining, and other extractive use. In addition to construction and poaching, these extractive uses pose significant threats to the great apes in these non-protected areas, which according to the manual is roughly 23.5 percent of Central Africa´s forests.

"Many of the forests of Central Africa remain outside existing protected areas," said David Morgan, the lead author of the study. "The survival of gorillas and chimpanzees in these unprotected landscapes depends on balancing the activities of logging and other forms of development with conservation." To lose any one of these great ape species would be devastating to the biodiversity and ecology of the region.

So, in an effort to educate logging companies, the authors feel the new report provides them with a framework for collaboration with forestry and conservation groups to establish “ape friendly” practices in mixed-use landscapes, primarily those outside of the protected areas yet in a high conservation value area (HCVA). As defined by the High Conservation Value Resource Network, an HCVA is a critical area in a landscape that needs to be appropriately managed to maintain or enhance the value of the area.

Six type of HSVA exist:

1. HCV1–Areas containing globally, regionally or nationally significant concentrations of biodiversity values (e.g. endemism, endangered species, refugia).

2. HCV2–Globally, regionally or nationally significant large landscape-level areas where viable populations of most if not all naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of distribution and abundance.

3. HCV3–Areas that are in or contain rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems.

4. HCV4–Areas that provide basic ecosystem services in critical situations (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control).

5. HCV5–Areas fundamental to meeting basic needs of local communities (e.g. subsistence, health).

6. HCV6–Areas critical to local communities´ traditional cultural identity (areas of cultural, ecological, economic or religious significance identified in cooperation with such local communities).

The report recommends improvements relating to environmental values and impacts, management, monitoring, and protection of the HSVAs that contain overlapping great ape activity near protected areas. These recommendations include the following:

1. minimize the risk of ape-human disease transmission through educational campaigns and the implementation of forest concession worker health programs and protocols;

2. strengthen law enforcement within forest concessions;

3. designate strictly controlled hunting zones for non-protected species (not including great apes);

4. recommend additional measures to protect tree species important to great apes and other wildlife in forests identified as high conservation value areas; and

5. ensure long-term monitoring of great apes in forest concessions.

These recommendations and practices could save the great apes in Central Africa. One of the report´s authors, Fionna Maisels of the WCS, stated, “By incorporating effective stewardship measures into logging practices, we can ensure a future for gorillas and chimpanzees in the forests of Central Africa." The whole goal is to incorporate human needs with great ape needs as well as conserving the biodiversity and ecosystem of the area.

The report (PDF) is titled “Great Apes and FSC: Implementing 'Ape Friendly' Practices in Central Africa's Logging Concessions.”