Strategy 7: Maintenance, strengthening and establishment of protected areas

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© Maegan Fitzgerald

Protected areas (PAs) are critical for the protection of chimpanzees and their habitat. However, despite the creation of several new national parks in recent years (Boé, Dulombi, Gola, Grebo-Kahn and Moyen-Bafing), only about 17% of the present population of western chimpanzees reside in high-level PAs (Heinicke et al. 2019a). Historically, PAs in West Africa have served largely as islands of biodiversity sheltered from the wave of habitat destruction blanketing the region, and frequently serve as the last vestiges of chimpanzee persistence while habitat is lost around them (Junker et al. 2012). Côte d’Ivoire is a pointed example. Amidst a 50% human population increase, the country lost most of its natural habitat and chimpanzees, few of which are now occur outside national parks (Campbell et al. 2008). The positive effects that PA status has on chimpanzee populations can spill over to other species. Chimpanzee abundance in Liberia, for example, is highly correlated with other large mammal abundances and tree diversity (Junker et al. 2015b). Protection of chimpanzees via PA status, therefore, can have umbrella effects on biodiversity at large, thus cementing their significance as a valuable flagship species for biodiversity in the region.

However, the integrity of the ecosystems in PAs is increasingly under threat. Common threats to western chimpanzees, such as poaching and habitat loss, also plague PAs. The PAs of West Africa have been rated as suffering the highest degrees of various threats to PAs across Africa (Tranquilli et al. 2014). Greengrass (2016) demonstrated that, despite its protected status, wildlife in Sapo National Park is under considerable poaching pressure due to the bushmeat trade, and that this pressure extends to the vulnerable chimpanzee population. To add to this, many PAs in the region are earmarked for mining or other infrastructure development (Junker et al. 2015b; Heinicke et al. 2019a). The Koukoutamba hydroelectric dam, for example, is slated to be built in the middle of the Moyen Bafing National Park in Guinea, which could kill up to one-third of the resident chimpanzees.

The creation of PAs has long been considered to be the most effective conservation strategy by chimpanzee conservationists working in West Africa (Neugebauer 2018). However, the effectiveness of PA creation is high only when PAs are well funded and well managed. ‘Paper parks’ in which little conservation activity occurs, that are poorly funded and poorly managed, are ineffective (Tranquilli et al. 2014). It is, therefore, important to support activities in PAs that perform well and are proven effective, as well as to establish locally appropriate systems where current coverage does not suffice. The following are the objectives for this strategy.

:Status Key

Objective

Objective 7.1: By 2023, regional, spatial range-wide population and habitat conservation goals and priorities are identified for chimpanzees through robust scientific analysis using objective criteria, such as those defined for Key Biodiversity Areas or KBAs (IUCN 2016).

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Objective

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Objective 7.2: By 2025, all existing PAs with chimpanzee populations have legally recognised boundaries for conservation purposes and no competing claims from other types of land use such as artisanal mining, industrial mining, timber or agriculture.

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Objective 7.3: By 2028, adequate habitat conservation protection coverage is achieved for western chimpanzees either through the gazettement of new PAs, other conservation measures, and/or funding mechanisms such as biodiversity offsets.

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Objective 7.4: By 2023, an effectiveness and capacity needs assessment for all PAs with significant numbers of chimpanzees has been conducted.

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Objective 7.5: By 2024, 100% of PAs with western chimpanzees have current or updated management plans that include chimpanzees as a conservation target, integrate local communities into decision-making processes, and improve integration of research programmes with management activities.

Objective 7.6: By 2026, 80% of PAs with chimpanzees have been evaluated for management effectiveness and have received a METT score of at least 60%.

Objective 7.7: By 2029, western chimpanzee populations are stable or growing in identified priority areas, including all PAs with significant chimpanzee numbers.

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Objective 7.8: By 2024, 80% of PAs with chimpanzees are implementing SMART or other appropriate patrol management and data recording systems.

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Objective 7.9: By 2025, 80% of PAs with chimpanzees have adequate staffing and financial resources to conduct the minimum necessary chimpanzee conservation actions.

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