Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 August 2009
Most comparisons of tropical forest communities between specific forests, regions, or larger geographic areas make the tacit assumption that these communities are the result of long-term evolutionary processes that led to ecologically stable systems. For most tropical forests, however, we have no early records (200 years or older) of what was distributed where and, therefore, cannot know if current ecological communities reflect ecologically stable systems that are the result of long-term evolution or whether they are the artifacts of very recent human activities, e.g., hunting, habitat destruction and alteration. In most tropical areas the impact of human activities has greatly escalated in the past 100–200 years and particularly so in the last 50 years because of exponentially increasing human populations. In some tropical areas this impact by humans is so profound and pervasive that it prevents an understanding of the longer-term processes in the evolution of tropical forest communities.
In this chapter I will restrict the analysis of this problem to Africa and concentrate primarily on the issue of hunting by humans. This analysis is complicated by the fact that hunting and forest degradation through logging and shifting cultivation often interact together. I will begin by describing what appear to be fairly well established cases of extinctions within contemporary history. This will be followed by descriptions of less well-known or uncertain extinctions. Finally, I will speculate on likely future extinctions due to hunting by humans and the possible role of chimpanzees in the local extinctions of red colobus populations.
The best documented examples of local extinctions of primates in Africa come from the Bia National Park in Ghana.