The habitat of great apes such as gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees will shrink massively in Africa in the next 30 years, a study by more than 60 scientists has shown.
According to the research in the journal Diversity and Distributions, up to 85 per cent of the apes’ current range will no longer be habitable by the middle of the century.
The destruction of the habitat is closely linked to climate change, deforestation and human population growth.
Gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees face “a bleak future,” said Dr Ilka Herbinger of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), a co-author of the study.
“In many regions of Africa, our closest relatives are at risk of extinction very soon,” she said.
Herbinger called for a halt to “climate collapse” and “forest destruction” to mitigate a mass extinction of the great apes.
According to the study, first published on Sunday, it is also crucial for the survival of the African apes to maintain and establish “connections and corridors” between habitats that could be a refuge in the future.
For example, mountain ranges are currently less suitable habitats for some great ape species, but this is expected to change with global warming.
Animals could theoretically survive if they were able to migrate from the lowlands to the mountains.
The study was the first to examine the effects of climate change, land use and human population growth in their entirety on the future range of gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos.
Currently, all African great apes are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as either endangered or critically endangered.(dpa/NAN)