Primates

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 102–112 | Cite as

Is the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, an endangered species? It depends on what “endangered” means

Review Article

Abstract

I review information on the status in the wild of the robust chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and consider whether this evidence is consistent with the designation of P. troglodytes as Endangered in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List, and with public statements to the effect that great apes as a whole will be extinct within a few decades. Chimpanzees remain widespread in tropical Africa, occurring in a variety of forested habitats. Estimates of total surviving numbers have increased from about 200,000 in the 1980s to a maximum of almost 300,000 in 2003. However, this apparent increase comes about from new survey data, rather than representing a measured increase in actual population numbers. Infectious disease decimated several chimpanzee populations during the 1990s, and data from parts of Gabon, extrapolated to that country as a whole, suggest a major decline in great ape populations caused by disease and hunting. However, accurate data on population numbers are absent for the majority of wild chimpanzee populations. I found reports of the presence of Pan troglodytes in at least 51 national parks in at least 19 countries; some of these parks have been established very recently. Chimpanzees also occur in many non-park conservation areas. A set of large, well-protected parks could safeguard chimpanzees for the foreseeable future. Although many African parks do not function well at present, mechanisms to improve their function are understood and available. By a strict application of IUCN threat criteria, P. troglodytes can be considered Endangered, based on estimated rates of past decline and on the species’ long generation time. Relatively speaking, however, P. troglodytes is less endangered than are orangutans or gorillas, and the species is unlikely to go extinct by the year 2100, especially if existing conservation measures improve. The IUCN threat-rating system has become overly complex; the system can produce results that do not accord with common sense and these results must therefore be interpreted with care.

Keywords

Chimpanzee Conservation Endangered species IUCN Red List Pan troglodytes 

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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHunter College of CUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA

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