Ape extinction

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Ape extinction, particularly great ape extinction, is one of the most widely held biodiversity concerns. Recent primate extinctions (notably that of Miss Waldron's red colobus) after a long period of no such losses, and the rise of the African bushmeat trade, have sparked concerns that human beings may be eliminating their nearest genetic and social relatives.

There are very few breeding populations of the great apes outside captivity, and all such populations are not only formally classified as endangered species, but in the direct path of human deforestation and development, especially in Indonesia and the Congo. They are also hunted by humans, as part of the growing African "bushmeat" trade, which has spread to African cities. Wars and civil unrest, e.g. in the Congo basin, plays a role in making effective conservation measures risky or even impossible.

As extinction has caused social groups of apes to disintegrate, losing many key adult members (according to researchers close to these groups) and leaving many ape children orphaned, pressure has also mounted to save these species. For many, the fate of apes differs in kind from that of other species: the extinction of man's nearest relatives would certainly lead to ignorance of human origins.

The United Nations itself may be tending towards this view. It appointed Jane Goodall, the primatologist most closely associated with chimpanzees and author of many longitudinal studies of chimp life over a forty-year period, as an Ambassador. Goodall has been a consistent advocate of great ape personhood, that is, treating all hominids as "persons", and not as "animals".

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Ape extinction

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