FREETOWN — Sierra Leone has 4,000 endangered west African chimpanzees, twice the number previously thought according to results of a national survey released in the capital Freetown on Tuesday.
Terry Brncic, who led the field research for the study carried out by the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, told journalists the last survey conducted in 1980 had estimated the chimp population to be between 1,500 and 2,500.
"The current survey has determined that almost half of these chimps are surviving in highly threatened and marginal habitats outside of the country's protected forest reserves," she said.
"These results confirm that Sierra Leone still hosts a significant population of the endangered Western Chimpanzee, making the country the second after Guinea" in terms of chimp populations.
The 230,000 US dollar survey, carried out between January 2009 and May 2010, is the first nationwide study ever taken in the west African nation concerning the most endangered of Africa's four chimpanzee subspecies.
While these results provide encouraging news the challenges to the long-term survival of these chimpanzees are many.
"With the country's push to develop and eliminate poverty, habitat is being rapidly lost to logging, mining and farming, pushing chimps into direct conflict with communities as they strive for survival," Brncic said.
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