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'Forgotten' African ape at risk from habitat loss, poaching

Nov. 26, 2013 at 6:17 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- An all but forgotten species of ape is threatened by human activity and habitat loss, an assessment by U.S., African and European wildlife researchers found.

The assessment of the bonobo -- formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee -- has revealed this poorly known and endangered great ape is quickly losing space in a world of growing human populations, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported Tuesday.

Both forest fragmentation and poaching are reducing the amount of usable habitat for the apes, the international study group found.

The bonobo -- one of humankind's closest living relatives -- avoids areas of high human activity and forest fragmentation, the researchers said, and as little as 28 percent of the bonobo's range remains suitable.

The entire range of the bonobo lies within the lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, currently experiencing warfare and instability.

"For bonobos to survive over the next 100 years or longer, it is extremely important that we understand the extent of their range, their distribution, and drivers of that distribution so that conservation actions can be targeted in the most effective way and achieve the desired results," Ashley Vosper of the Wildlife Conservation Society said.

"Bonobos are probably the least understood great ape in Africa, so this paper is pivotal in increasing our knowledge and understanding of this beautiful and charismatic animal."

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