Thursday, December 09, 2004

Hunters leave Bonobo on brink of extinction

A female bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, named Lana holds her baby in this Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 file photo at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, Calif. (AP Photo/Zoological Society of San Diego, Ken Bohn)

The ape considered to be man's closest relative could be on the brink of extinction, researchers warned today.

The bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, is found only in the heart of Africa's Congo basin, where it has been mercilessly hunted for bushmeat. Scientists had estimated the bonobo population to be around 50,000, but the results of a new survey show it is likely to be nearer to 10,000 - a potentially unsustainable level.

The survey, backed by the conservation charity WWF, was conducted in Salonga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Researchers from the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society studied an area of 12,000km sq - around one third of the park.

There were no sightings of a live bonobo, while nests and dung were seen in only a quarter of the region, and at lower levels than had previously been encountered. However, the scientists found abundant evidence of poaching.

Story here.

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