Chimpanzees, native to the continent of Africa, are our closest living relatives, sharing more than 98% of our genetic blueprint. Today, there are estimated to be merely 170,000-300,000 chimpanzees left in Africa, and their population is decreasing rapidly.

The primary threats to chimpanzees are habitat destruction, hunting, and disease. The increasing human population is intruding ever deeper into even protected areas of chimpanzee habitats. Subsistence hunting is nothing new, but there is now a thriving but unsustainable commercial market for chimpanzee bushmeat. In conjunction to this, increased contact with humans, both local people and tourists, has brought the threat of diseases, which may be mild in humans but lethal to chimps.

Partnering with the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) in Guinea, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is helping to tackle the unsustainable commercial market for chimpanzee bushmeat alongside human based threats and a growing pet trade. CCC provides vital rescue, rehabilitation and release programmes for illegally trafficked chimps and local educational campaigns attempting to reduce the demand for local trade.

Chimp Rescued by CCC in Guinea
Chimp Rescued by CCC in Guinea

In the last six years, over 14,000 chimpanzees have been lost to the illegal wildlife trade, with one chimpanzee being poached every four hours to satisfy consumer demand.

The capture of an infant chimpanzee has huge knock on effects for wild troupes, whose close social structures ensure the survival and strength of many individuals. Poachers typically slaughter ten adult chimps to ease the capturing process of infants, exacerbating the disappearance of this iconic species.

Growing demand for chimpanzees as pets and performers creates a lucrative industry for trafficking syndicates where infant chimpanzees can fetch over £10,000. Increased contact with humans, both local people and tourists, has brought the threat of diseases, which may be mild in humans but lethal to chimps.

Although law enforcement efforts have increased in recent years in order to tackle the growing trade in chimps, it is still estimated that for every successful seizure, five to ten animals slip through the net and onto the black market.

DSWF is fighting to protect chimps, by providing funding to help rescue chimps which have been traded or are due to be sold into the illegal trade. DSWF campaigns and supports the fight to ensure law enforcement efforts are robustly implemented to ensure illegal activity is stopped and persecutors are held accountable.

DSWF’s project partner CCC is working to protect chimps – it has a long-term rehabilitation programme in place to ensure chimps due for future release into the wild are as fully prepared as possible. Chimps which are recused are given a second chance at life by introducing and facilitating the adoption into new troupes.

Research is now underway to fund a second release site for chimps and there is much greater collaboration with the Haut Niger National Park.

Engagement with communities is also key, to reinforce the message that Chimpanzees are not for human entertainment or consumption. DSWF helps fund the salary and work of a CCC educator who is tasked with visiting local schools and communities to help raise awareness about the illegal trade in chimps and to educate local children as to the importance of preserving chimp habitats and their environment.

Help us continue our vital work to protect this vulnerable species by donating here. Thank you.