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Case Study: The Saga Of The Great Apes

2782 words - 11 pages

The Saga of the Great ApesThe decimation of the great apes who once flourished in the jungles and forests of the Congo is a microcosm of the broader crisis that extends to other species of the primates across the African continent. Essentially undisturbed throughout history until halfway through the 20th century, the primates’ populations remained healthy and in sufficient numbers to assure the continuation of their species into the future. However, as a result of loss of habitat, poaching, death due to exposure to disease, the great ape populations have been reduced to numbers which are unsustainable by natural means. Although the species are protected, they are being hunted to the point of extinction. So low are their numbers, the World Conservation Union changed their status from “endangered” to “critically endangered” in 2008. (Schultz, 2008) The socio-economic, environmental, and ethical perspectives of the practice are incongruent. Interested parties have had no success in agreeing on an approach that will stop the killing. A review of the history of the problem, the past and present contributing factors which promote the harvest of bush meat, and the direct conflict between the interests and ethics of the key parties to the issue will illustrate why no significant progress has been made to save the great apes from extinction.HistoryFor centuries, the primates were a source of food for the small, indigenous populations of central Africa. The human population density was much smaller than in the present, with one hunter for every 10 square kilometers of forest. The explosion in the African population over the past 20 years increased the need for food and the hunting of primates. Traditional “primitive” methods of the hunt were replaced with industrialized capability to trap and kill the primates. Logging of the rainforests decreased the size of the habitat of the great apes, forcing more concentrated numbers of animals to live in smaller areas making them easier targets. Additionally, access into the dense forests via the logger roads allowed hunters to get to the wildlife easier and to haul out carcasses after the kill. Hunting became a commercialized industry where automatic weapons replaced bows, arrows, and spears as the tools used for the hunt.Hunting bush meat evolved from a source of protein for indigenous peoples to a global market that is a multi-million dollar industry today. Although the international community has outlawed the trade of bush meat, the practice of poaching continues unabated due to poor enforcement. Rwanda’s second largest source of revenue comes from the sale of bush meat and body parts for souvenirs. Poachers pay Rwanda’s Interahamweh rebels to protect them while they hunt and kill the rare gorillas. (Gorilla War, 2008) Trade in bush meat is worth $350 million a year in Ghana and $121 million a year in the Ivory Coast. Poor countries rely on whatever markets are...

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