- Trade in orphans and bushmeat threatens one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's most important populations of eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)
- African Primates (Print)
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Following the invasion of the Bili-Uéré Domaine de Chasse by illegal gold miners in June 2007 and the subsequent abandonment of a long-term community conservation and research project there, the first author conducted a survey of chimpanzees and other large mammals on the south side of the Uele River, in the forests around the cities of Buta, Aketi, and Bambesa. This survey confirmed the presence of a large population of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in these forests, consistent with findings from surveys north of the Uele between 2004 and 2007. We also documented an expansion of the bushmeat trade to the south of the Uele River, linked to the artisanal diamond and gold mining industries and centered on Buta. Over an 18-month period from September 2007 to March 2009, we observed 42 chimpanzee orphans and 34 chimpanzee carcasses in markets, houses, and by the roadsides. This encounter rate of orphans and carcasses to the south of the Uele River was 20-30 times higher than that of the Bili area to the north. Interviews with local villagers and hunters indicate that there has been a major increase in bushmeat hunting, and the hunting of chimpanzees in particular, over the past 15 years. This wave of killing is currently expanding rapidly across the region. Given that the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to one of the largest continuous populations of chimpanzees remaining in Africa, it is crucial that this region be accorded the highest conservation priority. We recommend four lines of intervention to respond to this major and urgent threat: 1) Bring an end to the slaughter, 2) Establish formal protection for key chimpanzee populations and their habitats, 3) Begin educational campaigns via films and radio, and 4) Ensure the care of existing orphans.
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