Arusha — Chimpanzees may soon join elephants and rhinos as the most threatened wildlife species in Tanzania due to their fast falling populations, wildlife experts have said.
The current population of the primates in the country vary, but it is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,200 from tens of thousands a few decades ago.
"The animals face extinction in many parts of Africa. A hundred years ago, there were probably two million, but now only 150,000 to 200,000," said Dr Anthony Collins, a baboon researcher at Gombe Stream National Park.
He said recently during an exhibition of the primates considered to be closest to humans than others, that mitigation efforts must be made to protect the now threatened animals. He added that the animals were endangered mainly due to the destruction of their natural habitats, illegal hunting and captivity for export, where they were used for medical research.
"Habitats necessary for their survival are disappearing at an alarming rate as more forests are cut down for farming and other activities," he said during the exhibition held at the Natural History Museum in Arusha. "In the 1960s, chimps were stretched all along the east side of Lake Tanganyika, but this is not the case now due to the destruction of their habitats and increased human activities," he noted.
The apes are found in isolated locations in Katavi, Kigoma and Rukwa regions. One third of them have found sanctuaries in national parks and the rest in less protected areas, which extend to Tabora Region.