Climate Change Not so Great for Apes

Already under pressure from a combination of poaching, logging and disease, the great apes are increasingly feeling the threat posed by further habitat destruction as a consequence of the push to switch from fossil fuels to biofuels. Richard Leakey, the chair of WildlifeDirect and a leading conservationist, has warned that the apes, which include chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas, are facing an "inevitable crisis" and that measures such as financial incentives should be considered to encourage the protection of forests and other vulnerable habitats.

Speaking to a group of journalists, the former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service said, "I am concerned about the pressures on the land as a result of changes to the climate, but also the pressures on the land in terms of people's reaction to climate change and the shift away from fossil fuels to biofuels."

Orangutans, which only number 50,000, have been particularly hard hit by the boom in palm oil plantations in poorer countries. In addition to being used in vegetable oil, soaps and shampoos, palm oil has been suggested as an alternative biofuel. "People shrug their shoulders and say what are poor countries to do if they cannot exploit their natural resources, and I can understand this, but it is not sustainable the way it is going," he said.Leaky proposed starting a "biodiversity credit" program to reward those who choose not to cut down forests.

"Being paid for not cutting down indigenous forests and getting credit for that is a further step that builds on the idea of getting paid for planting new forests," he explained. "It does seem that we cannot stop development, but it does also seem that perhaps we can stop development where critical species are threatened, and perhaps there could be a price added to that."

He added, however, that there could be other creative ways to tackle this problem and that all ideas should be on the table. The overarching message he wanted to convey was that immediate action, no matter its form, should be taken. "Could the great apes go because of climate change? Yes. Possibly not within our lifetime, but what about in 100 or 200 years?

::Great apes 'facing climate peril'

See also: ::Arctic Predators Hit Hard by Climate Change, ::National Wildlife Federation, Gardener's Guide To Climate Change, ::Two Views on the Effects of Global Warming, ::Children Already Bearing Brunt of Global Warming