World Animal Day 2014

World Animal Day 2014

Today, October 4th, is World Animal Day! What a great day to celebrate! World Animal Day was started by ecologists at a 1931 conference in Florence as a day intended to highlight the plight of endangered species.

Learn more about the mission of World Animal Day.

Here at Chimps Inc, we talk a lot about apes in captivity and animal welfare, but education about conservation is also a major part of our mission. As all species of great apes are endangered and in near universal decline, on this day, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss the current conservation status of chimpanzees in the wild. According to Mongabay, “The illegal trade in live chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans showed no signs of weakening in the first half of 2014—and may actually be getting worse—since the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) published the first-ever report to gauge the global black market trade in great apes in 2013.”

While this can be a difficult and perhaps even discouraging issue to discuss, there are many ways in which you can help improve the situation for chimpanzees.

Live Animal Trafficking

Live apes; most commonly  young, manageable infants; are trafficked illegally into the exotic pet trade, the tourist entertainment industry, and commercial zoos. Recent investigations show that hundreds of apes are exported by each major dealer, and these apes face high mortality rates during the export process.

What you can do about itarticle-2487723-1934208500000578-484_306x423

While most chimpanzees in the US come from breeding facilities, that is not the case in many countries. Chimpanzees captured from the wild are common as photo props for tourists. Practice responsible tourism and encourage your friends to do the same. A photo with a wild animal may seem like a magical moment that can make for an exciting vacation memory, but for that animal, it’s life. To learn how to make animal friendly choices while on vacation, you can use this informative search tool by Care for the Wild’s RIGHT Tourism campaign.

You can also write to travel agencies and ask them to cut all support for these types of vacation activities; such as roadside zoos, animal photo props, swimming with dolphins, elephant rides; and to instead recommend responsible animal tourist activities, including voluntourism opportunities.

Bushmeat Trade

Apes are also threatened by the illegal, but popular bushmeat trade. Killing and consuming any endangered animal is illegal and the consumption of primates in particular exposes humans to significant health risks, as our close relation means we can contract many of the same diseases as primates.

What can be done?

There are several ways to address the bushmeat trade, including enhanced law enforcement, monitoring, protected areas, and education. A major way to combat the illegal bushmeat trade is to support local communities and help them find sustainable alternatives for both protein and income. The Jane Goodall Institute works to help communities develop sustainable livelihoods that reduce pressure on the forest―and its inhabitants.

Extractive Industries

Chimpanzees face a loss of habitat as tropical forests are destroyed by extractive industries such as logging, mining, and oil and gas; industrial plantations; and populations in search of land. One of these major industries is palm oil.

Palm oil is an ingredient found in many common household items from food, to cosmetics, to cleaning products. It is an ingredient which, among environmentalists, is equated with rainforest destruction and the impending extinction of orangutans. Palm oil is primarily grown in large monocultures on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo and is considered the main threat to orangutan survival. Mass areas of orangutan habitat are cleared for palm oil plantations, often employing slash and burn methods of clearing. Orangutans who venture onto plantations looking for food are treated as agricultural pests and babies often end up in the illegal wildlife trade.

Now, this crop with a reputation for destruction, is making its way into chimpanzee habitat. A study in Current Biology found that 60 percent of plantations throughout western and central Africa, overlapped with great ape habitat across the entire area. In some areas, the overlap was even higher: 100 percent of plantations in Ghana overlapped.

What can you do?

An easy way to begin supporting chimpanzee habitat is to cast your vote with your purchases. By boycotting products which use unsustainable palm oil, you can tell companies that you are not turning a blind eye to their practices and will not support the destruction of chimpanzee habitat. You can take an even more active approach by writing to companies that use palm oil and telling them why you cannot support their product until they commit to using 100% certified sustainable palm oil.

Learn more about palm oil at Palm Oil Consumers Action.

Thank you for helping chimpanzees!

This article is not meant to discourage or depress you, but rather to empower you to help improve the situation for chimpanzees and aid in their conservation. So on this day, World Animal Day 2014, as you think about endangered species and your role in conservation, please carry these words with you: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

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-Kaleigh R., Social Media Editor