The Plan

To determine the actions needed to ensure the survival of western chimpanzees, a range of stakeholders convened for a workshop in Monrovia, Liberia.  Participants included representatives of the governments of the western chimpanzee’s eight range countries, conservation non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, researchers, and donor organisations. This document reports on the outcomes of the workshop and details a proposal for a path forward, providing a collective call for concrete action towards saving western chimpanzees.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In 2016, IUCN uplisted the western chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes verus, from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered”, reflecting the subspecies’ increasingly dire conservation status. It occurs in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone, but has been extirpated in three countries – Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. Of the four recognised chimpanzee subspecies, Pan troglodytes verus is under the greatest threat. The population is estimated to have declined by 80% between 1990 and 2014, to approximately 52,800 individuals. The four chimpanzee subspecies have experienced an overall range reduction of 20% in just eight years, and much of this contraction can be linked to habitat loss, poaching and disease.

Over 10% of the western chimpanzee’s current geographic range is habitat already earmarked for large-scale infrastructure development, and this in addition to extensive overlap with land targeted for industrial extraction, or suitable for agricultural plantations. Much of the population is unprotected, with only 17% of western chimpanzees residing in protected areas, leaving 83% under no formal protection. This subspecies occurs in a region with high human population growth, exposing it to potential conflicts of interest with both large- and small-scale developments. West Africa is anticipated to experience one of the world’s highest rates of urban and industrialised development. Rates of habitat loss are likely to escalate, as annual forest loss is predicted to reach 20% by 2030 and over 60% by the year 2050. Already, nearly 40% of western chimpanzees live within 5 km of a human settlement and nearly 60% within 5 km of a road. There is, therefore, a pressing need to mitigate, reduce or remove ongoing threats in the face of the clear pattern of chimpanzee losses, and to capitalise on conservation opportunities as they arise.

In light of this, western chimpanzees are on a trajectory towards extinction unless drastic measures are taken immediately. The plan presents the status and threats to P. t. verus, based on expert evaluation of the best scientific knowledge available to date. A considerable amount of new data has improved our knowledge of the distribution and status patterns of this subspecies since the first action plan was published in 2003, and an analysis of the threats to chimpanzee populations highlights the need to address these threats and their drivers. Specifically, habitat loss and poaching were identified as the two highest threats to chimpanzees, followed by industrial and artisanal mining, disease, negative interactions between people and chimpanzees, industrial agriculture and road infrastructure development. Multiple indirect drivers also continue to threaten chimpanzees in the region. They include weak environmental governance (particularly lack of law enforcement and inadequate governance of industry), inconsistencies in legislation across countries, inadequate financial and logistical resources for chimpanzee conservation, and lack of consideration of chimpanzees in land-use planning.

VISION & SCOPE

This plan outlines actions, methods and indicators, and identifies implementers for the completion of the objectives given for each strategy, with the goal of achieving a collective vision:

 A connected landscape where western chimpanzees and their habitats are valued, protected and thriving; ensuring mutually beneficial coexistence for current and future generations of chimpanzees and humans.

The geographic scope of the plan was defined as the geographic range of the western chimpanzee and encompasses an area of c.523,000 km2. Western chimpanzees currently occur in eight West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

STRATEGIES

Stakeholders identified the following nine strategies, which encapsulate the efforts needed to conserve western chimpanzees across their geographic range:

This action plan highlights how concerned stakeholders can harmonise their efforts, emphasising the critical role of regional coordination and inter- and multidisciplinary approaches in conserving the western chimpanzee. Finally, this plan also seeks to be dynamic, embedded in a monitoring and evaluation framework that will keep priorities and strategies relevant, updating objectives and information on threats as anthropogenic and ecological pressures evolve across West Africa.