About the SA Blog Network

Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world
Extinction Countdown Home

A chimpanzee apocalypse in Tanzania?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

Tanzania’s chimpanzee population has plummeted by more than 90 percent, from 10,000 a few years ago to just 700 today, according to a report from the Tanzania National Parks Authority.

The Parks Authority blamed disease and predation — by humans and other mammals — for the dramatic losses. The country’s chimpanzees are located in just two habitats, making them highly susceptible to population-destroying illnesses.

Of course, Tanzania’s economy is highly dependent upon both agriculture and mining, which the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species blames as the top reason for chimpanzee population declines throughout Africa.

Tanzania is one of the few homes of the Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), one of four subspecies of the Common Chimpanzee. Even though the Common Chimpanzee is the most "common" great ape after humans, all chimpanzees populations are declining and the they are considered endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Image: Chimpanzee, via Stock.xchng

Rights & Permissions

Comments 12 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Truth Hurts 9:18 am 06/12/2009

    Species go extinct all of the time. While some extinctions can be directly blamed on humans, it is no more than Darwinism in motion. Chimpanzees are simply being out competed by a species higher on the evolutionary scale. We as humans have compassion so we tend to think of it as our "fault". It is simply nature. It has happened for millions of years. And it will continue long after we have gone. Other species in Earth’s past have caused extinctions and we don’t view them as evil or bad. Again, it is simply the way nature works. When a species is no longer a good fit for the present environment, it dies out and something new evolve to fill the empty niche.

    Link to this
  2. 2. peanutbutter 9:39 am 06/12/2009

    strip-mining and deforestation are not "natural". Get a grip.

    Link to this
  3. 3. dbtinc 10:08 am 06/12/2009

    Actually I might argue that strip mining and deforestation are natural manifestations as they are an element of human natural behavior. I may disagree with the concepts of mining and cutting trees down but it is what it is. Not all evolutionary activity is positive.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Foghorn 10:12 am 06/12/2009

    "Species go extinct all of the time." Wait, Wait, Wait,…We aren’t talking about a species disappearing from existence due to a change in global climate or the flooding of a fertile grazing area. "Nature" does not encapsulate the destruction of environment for harvesting of Any kind of material.

    You have the right to your opinion and view, and I have the right think your opinion is narrow minded and uninformed.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Dologan 10:15 am 06/12/2009

    What a lazy and negligent attitude to a problem largely caused by humans. How about we bring that argument closer home?

    People die all the time. Indeed, it’s the fate of every person. So, why bother fighting crime, resorting to diplomacy instead of war and implementing safety and hygiene measures to combat accidents and disease. Some other person will fill the house, take the job and eat the food, whatever. It’s just the way life works. Why bother taking any responsibility for anything. Right?

    You might think it’s not really the same thing, but ultimately, it’s pretty damn close.

    Oh, and by the way, there is no such thing as "higher on the evolutionary scale". It’s just a common fallacy of the arrogant.

    Link to this
  6. 6. discipline 10:27 am 06/12/2009

    Wow– where to begin with this idiotic and sad comment? There really is no response, since far-Right anti-environmentalists like "Truth Hurts" are too far gone in their rat hole of ignorance and arrogance to recognize a reasoned argument.

    What’s next: grinding up puppies for their nutritive value? It’s natural for us to eat, after all. Jeez…

    > "We as humans have compassion"

    Not everyone, apparently.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Chris TMC 10:36 am 06/12/2009

    Truth Hurts, words cannot express how disappointing it is to know that there are people in this world who share your vision of "nature".

    Link to this
  8. 8. ehrichweiss 11:56 am 06/12/2009

    Actually Truth Hurts is making a very good point but it seems most of you are too interested in polarizing the issue to actually look at it objectively. And before some of you start, that does not mean "I’m on his side", I’m simply pointing out that he’s making a point of fact and some of you guys are so emotionally involved with your own causes that you’re missing the real message. For example, forest fires have been around since as long as there’s been dry wood and sparks but these days we consider forest fires to be our fault, and along those same lines we consider species going extinct from deforestation to be our fault but due to those same forest fires, they might have been extinct long ago had we not intervened by fighting the fires. Had we not been here, nature would have taken its course and there would have been natural "deforestation" and those species would be extinct.

    There’s seriously nothing wrong with thinking in those terms from an objective viewpoint but it will surely make you angry/sad, as witnessed above, if you let your subjectivity get in the way.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t do our best to reduce our influence but you have to realize that our influence goes BOTH ways, good and bad, and sometimes it really isn’t our fault.

    Link to this
  9. 9. cwbarrows 12:51 pm 06/12/2009

    No, it is not a good, or even mildly objective point. All living things are at the same point on the evolutionary scale (about 3 1/2 billion years along). In fact, from a strict evolutionary point of view, Homo sapiens are a young and fairly undeveloped species. It isn’t yet certain whether we will find equilibrium with our environment, or turn out to be an evolutionary dead end (if you want to find the pinnacle of Evolution, look to the horseshoe crab).

    While it is technically true that industry is a "natural" product of our evolution, it is naive to think that industry alone can support us indefinitely. We probably (not definitely) will get along without the chimpanzees, but there is a tipping point at which we will invite our own extinction by the destruction of other species.

    If humans are a "higher" species, then it is because we have evolved to possess a greater degree of control over our own actions than (probably) any other organism on Earth. We have a unique control over our own destinies, and I’d say it’s time we start exercising that control.

    Link to this
  10. 10. discipline 4:29 pm 06/12/2009

    > "sometimes it really isn’t our fault"

    But in the case of chimps in Tanzania, it demonstrably is our fault. And your analogy is weak: Unlike natural forest fires, which are relatively small and rarely if ever cause an entire species to go extinct, large-scale deforestation by humans has and continues to do so. So what’s your point?

    Your minimization of the impact that humans have on the planet is based on emotion and/or a political agenda, not on the decades of science that contradicts your point.

    My question for you and other anti-environmentalists out there: since chimps have minimal monetary value in the global economy, and since their extinction won’t materially affect most humans in a significant way, are they worth saving? Why try to prevent their extinction if you can’t make a buck off it? Your answer will be telling…

    Link to this
  11. 11. mdlap 6:32 am 06/21/2009

    You ehrichweiss, and Truth Hurts, have both confused an empirical issue (species die), with a moral issue (should we let species die). In arguing against Truth Hurts, no one is arguing that it doesn’t happen. We are arguing that a) we don’t have to right to make it happen and b) we do have a responsibility to prevent it where possible, especially where it is demonstrably the result of our actions. Whether or not extinction occurs naturally is irrelevant.

    Link to this
  12. 12. bookwormy27 12:12 pm 09/17/2009

    I do not think that the point of this story was to argue as to whether or not extinction is natural or if humans play a role, but to simply inform people as to the plight of the chimpanzees. Natural selection is certainly a valid excuse but not the only one. Due to encroaching villages and their inhabitants, the chimpanzees are being exposed to human diseases, diseases that they may have never been exposed to if not for their interaction with their cohabitants. While some disease is in the natural course of life, our diseases being "transferred" to another species is not naural, but a result of our own recklessness. There is most certainly nothing natural about poaching and killing these creatures for nothing more than money and tourism. The real problem here is the apathy expressed by many and most people, to subjects that do not directly effect them.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article