October 13, 2008
Chimp Numbers In Ivory Coast Fall Another Order Of Magnitude

Looks like chimp numbers in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast - and why not call it that?) have dropped two orders of magnitude since the 1960s.

In a population survey of West African chimpanzees living in Côte d'Ivoire, researchers estimate that this endangered subspecies has dropped in numbers by a whopping 90 percent since the last survey was conducted 18 years ago. The few remaining chimpanzees are now highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park, according to a report in the October 14th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

Maybe in 50 years the human population of Africa will stop growing. Then again, maybe not. But long before that happens lots of primate species, cat species, and other species in Africa are going to be toast. Time to start doing massive DNA sample collection so that perhaps a couple of centuries from now these species can be reintroduced into the wild.

This alarming decline in a country that had been considered one of the final strongholds for West African chimps suggests that their status should be raised to critically endangered, said Geneviève Campbell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

The booming human population in Côte d'Ivoire is probably responsible for the chimpanzees' demise.

"The human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 percent over the last 18 years," said Christophe Boesch, also of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "Since most threats to chimpanzee populations are derived from human activities such as hunting and deforestation, this has contributed to the dramatic decline in chimpanzee populations. Furthermore, the situation has deteriorated even more with the start of the civil war in 2002, since all surveillance ceased in the protected areas."

Back in the late 80s the chimps in Ivory Coast were half the remaining chimps. Maybe they still are if the chimps in the rest of Africa are fairing just as poorly.

In the 1960s, the population of chimpanzees in Côte d'Ivoire was estimated at about 100,000 individuals. At the end of the 1980s, when the first and last nationwide chimpanzee survey was carried out, the total population of chimpanzees was estimated at 8,000 to 12,000 individuals. While that already represented a drastic decrease from the expected numbers, it nonetheless meant that Côte d'Ivoire harbored about half of the world's remaining West African chimpanzee populations.

In the new study, Campbell and Boesch's team conducted another nationwide survey, revealing a 90 percent drop in the chimpanzee nest encounter rate since the time of the last survey. That catastrophic decline in chimpanzees is especially strong in forest areas with low protection status, where the researchers saw no sign of the chimps. Even in protected areas like Marahoué National Park, chimpanzees have clearly suffered since surveillance and external funding support were disrupted by civil unrest in 2002.

Ivory Coast women are producing more than 4 babies per woman. While it has a population of 20.1 million today you can pay a visit to the US Census Bureau's web site's international database and do a query for population projections for 2050 and find that they expect a population of over 37 million. Even with the current population there's probably enough people in Ivory Coast to wipe out all the chimps. I doubt the chimps stand a chance with 37 million. So bye bye wild chimps. You can visit them in some zoos.

To my commenters who do not believe massive species extinctions are in store: Where are those chimps hiding?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 October 13 10:45 PM  Trends Extinction

Anon987 said at October 13, 2008 10:57 PM:

Are we really losing so much with the chimps? DNA samples would be enough for me...

Xenophon Hendrix said at October 14, 2008 5:16 AM:

I believe that I became convinced in 1994 that IQ scores were both useful and legitimate and not the racist frauds as they were then, and still often are, portrayed in the mass media. I became interested in the subject and read both A Question of Intelligence by Daniel Seligman and The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray. Some time later, I read Steve Sailer's review of IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Lynn and Vanhanen and learned that the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africa is around seventy.

In the United States, IQ scores of seventy are low enough to help qualify one to receive SSI. I realized, to a rather sick feeling in my stomach, that the developed world probably could do little to help Africa. How can a population in which half of its members are more-or-less mentally disabled be helped? If one examines this graph from Linda Gottfredson, one learns that a person with an IQ below seventy is qualified for almost no jobs in a modern economy. (The article from which the graph is drawn is worthwhile reading.)

Steve Sailer suggests that supplementing the sub-Saharan diet with trace minerals might raise the average IQ there to around eighty. That is certainly worth doing. Other than that, I have read about nothing that sounds like it could help the African people on any reasonable time scale. If people are impoverished, hungry, and sometimes starving, they aren't going to worry about protecting wildlife. I fear that Africa is doomed to be an ongoing disaster that nothing will forestall.

Mthson said at October 14, 2008 5:48 AM:

Impoverished societies don't have too much incentive to fight animal extinction, so on this issue it seems like sub-Saharan societies are actually being quite rational, rather than being unintelligent.

Regarding the IQ issue, Botswana is at the same level of GDP per capita PPP as Poland and Russia, and well ahead of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Belarus, so it does seem that the apparent cognitive disadvantages in sub-Saharan Africa aren't so strong as to necessarily be a show-stopper. They did get lucky with substantial natural resources (diamonds), but so did the US (every resource), and they're also drained to some degree from poor health (AIDS) and an unnecessarily large military budget.

aa2 said at October 14, 2008 8:37 AM:

Both humanitarian leftists and christians agree that the world does not have enough African people. They both aggressively send food, money and medicine to help increase the population in Africa. While fighting against any effort to limit the birthrates.

I don't want to hear anyone who donates to programs like Unicef, complaining about the loss of wilderness and animals in Africa.

Xenophon Hendrix said at October 14, 2008 11:10 AM:

Mthson, Average IQ isn't everything, but it's a lot. Perhaps the Chinese can find many natural resources throughout sub-Saharan Africa and return some of the discovered wealth to the Africans. I wouldn't bet on it, but it doesn't strike me as impossible.

Here is a relevant article. So far, it looks grim.

averros said at October 15, 2008 7:30 PM:

So what... chimps are getting replaced with somewhat smarter primates. That's evolution in action.

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