Peer Reviewed

Endangered chimpanzee can disappear in our lifetime

Climate change has threatened the population of the planet’s most endangered chimpanzee sub-species, researchers report.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is the most endangered of all chimpanzee sub-species in the world, with only about 6,000 individuals estimated in the wild.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is perhaps the least studied of all chimpanzee sub-species.

“We were surprised to see that the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees living in the savannah-woodland habitat of central Cameroon are under the most immediate threat of climate change, and may completely lose their habitat within our lifetime,” said first author Paul Sesink Clee, graduate research fellow at Drexel University in the US.

Endangered chimps
“Ngambe” is a chimpanzee rescued from illegal animal trafficking who now lives at the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon. Image Credit: Paul Sesink Clee

The team predicted the mountainous rainforest habitat could disappear almost entirely under the worst case scenario by 2080.

While the team predicted little change in the mountainous rainforest habitat, the ecotone habitat of the second population was predicted to decline quickly under all scenarios by the year 2020 and could disappear almost entirely under the worst case scenario by 2080. With roughly half of the 6,000 Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees existing in the ecotone habitat of central Cameroon, the results suggest that this subspecies of chimpanzee is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

The research was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.


Paul R Sesink Clee, Ekwoge E Abwe, Ruffin D Ambahe, Nicola M Anthony, Roger Fotso, Sabrina Locatelli, Fiona Maisels, Matthew W Mitchell, Bethan J Morgan, Amy A Pokempner and Mary Katherine Gonder.Chimpanzee population structure in Cameroon and Nigeria is associated with habitat variation that may be lost under climate change BMC Evolutionary Biology 2015. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-014-0275-z

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