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How Africans are Changing the Course of Nature

Great apes are predicted to lose a “devastating” 90% of their homelands in Africa in coming decades, according to a study. All gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are already endangered or critically endangered. But a combination of the climate crisis, the destruction of wild areas for minerals, timber and food, and human population growth is on track to decimate their ranges by 2050, the scientists said. Half of the projected lost territory will be in national parks and other protected areas. Some new areas will become climatically suitable for the apes, but the researchers doubt they will be able to migrate into these regions in time. The estimated range loss is stark, but today’s ranges in central and western Africa are already much smaller than in the past. There is good conservation work being done in some places the scientists said with, for example, Gabon’s development of farming, mining and road and rail links being focused on areas that are already degraded, avoiding intact forests. However, the biggest protection for great apes could come from consumers in rich nations demanding sustainably produced goods. Currently the export of minerals for mobile phones, timber, and palm oil are major drivers of great ape population falls.