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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2010

19 - Long-term research and conservation of great apes: a global future



This book stems from a workshop that celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project. Research on chimpanzees in Uganda, together with studies in Gombe and Mahale in Tanzania and elsewhere, has challenged our assumptions of culture being a uniquely human trait, if by culture one means any widespread behavior that is transmitted by learning rather than acquired by inheritance. In addition to chimpanzees Pan troglodytes, the other great apes (bonobos Pan paniscus, gorillas Gorilla gorilla and orangutans Pongo pygmaeus), as well as elephants, whales, and various kinds of birds, show evidence of culture in the wild (Fernandez-Armesto, 2004). Together with their close genetic relationship to humans, this is an important reason why researchers study great ape ecology and behavior, and why many people hope to conserve these charismatic species.

The relationship between field research and scientific conclusions has been a mutually beneficial one; but this has not always been true for the relationship between research and conservation. Certainly, the work of more than a century of science-based advocacy and support has assisted the conservation of ecosystems, species, and gene pools. Particularly in Africa, it has helped to minimize the rate of loss of species during the twentieth century. Yet the outcomes of science-based conservation have been too limited. They have not met growing demands for individual skills and competencies, or for increased institutional capacity and authority. Researchers have also done too little to help mobilize new financial investments for conservation capacity.

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