Yet another road to this great ape’s extinction

Road expansion in West Africa is threatening the critically endangered western chimpanzee population

April 8, 2022
A Western chimp family in Bossou forest of Guinea
The roads shrink western chimp’s habitats, forcing them to fight more often with other chimpanzee communities, which can lead to their death. [Credit: Wikimedia commons|Anup Shah |CC by SA 4.4|Canon EOS-1D Mark IV]  

Chimpanzees are nearing extinction in many countries. Of the four subspecies of these great apes, western chimpanzees are the most endangered. Experts estimate that their distribution is now extremely patchy, with 80% of their numbers having declined in the last 20 years. The largest-remaining population is found in the Ivory Coast in Western Africa, with smaller populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia. 

Poaching and habitat loss are some of the well-known threats to chimpanzees. But a study published last September finds that road developments are exacerbating their population decline. Noise pollution emanating from the construction of roads and poachers gaining access to more remote locations are some of the reasons to blame. A team of primate conservationists have quantified the extent to which roads jeopardize their communities. They say that just about 4.5% of the chimp population are left unaffected by roads. 

On this episode of the Scienceline podcast, reporter Niranjana Rajalakshmi speaks with primate behavior experts who suggest a few strategies that could mitigate the impact of roads on western chimpanzees. 


Kalimba relaxation music by Kevin MacLeod | Filmmusic.io standard license

Accralate by Kevin MacLeod | Filmmusic.io standard license

Sound effects:

Cars passing on the road – freesound by Vinstrom | CC by 1.0

Chimpanzee scream – freesound by Animadirer | CC by 1.0

Forest sound – freesound by Taavhaap | CC by 3.0   

About the Author

Niranjana Rajalakshmi

Niranjana Rajalakshmi is a veterinarian from South India. After a master’s in veterinary microbiology, she has combined her subject matter expertise with her fervor for storytelling and transitioned as a science journalist. From the three seasons of her city – summer, summerer, and summerest – she thinks moving to NYC will add at least one more season to her life and more flavor to her writing. Niranjana enjoys cooking, singing, and feeling nostalgic about her furry patients.


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