The chimpanzee is a favourite animal for many people. Perhaps this is because of the adorable portrayals of them in children's shows, or perhaps because they are so similar to humans, sharing 98% of our genes. Few people realise just how endangered chimps are. They can no longer be found in four African countries and are facing extinction in the areas that they remain in. This is due to deforestation and commercial hunting for their meat. In total there are between 150,000 and 250,000 remaining which, in comparison to the population a century ago, is very low.
There are four subspecies of chimps located in different regions and each subspecies acts in a different way, displaying various behavioural tendencies within that society. When one region becomes extinct it means losing that example of societal behaviour and is more than a reduction in numbers. Chimps live in communities and are very social animals. They have dominant leaders and sub-groups, but they also have the freedom to move between communities. Some chimpanzees can live up to 60 years, showing just how similar to humans they are.
There are several reasons for the reduction in population of chimpanzees. There are no longer any chimps to be found in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin and the largest population can be found in Gabon, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. One of the biggest causes of depopulation is hunting. ‘Bushmeat' is a primary source of protein in Central and West Africa. It is becoming more commercialised as it moves into the cities and prices increase. Disease is also a key cause as the Ebola haemorrhagic fever has significantly reduced the population of both chimps and apes. Shockingly infant chimps are also being taken from their parents and sold in the cities as pets. One of the best-known causes of depopulation is deforestation. Land development is ruining the habitat of many animals, including chimps.