Award-winning conservationist, Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh; project director of The South-West/Niger Delta Forest Project, says she fears for the future of some of the worlds most endangered chimps.
Devastated by hunting and deforestation, the chimps now face a threat from coronavirus.
Rachel says the pandemic is bringing to the fore issues such as wildlife trade and consumption, and that it’s time for conservationists to advocate change and speak up.
“There should be changes, there should be regulations, and there should be policies that would bring an end to wildlife trade, and especially the bush meat markets,” she told BBC News.
Chimpanzee habitats have been fast disappearing across Africa due to legal and illegal logging and farming. As well as, poaching represents a grave danger, with chimps being hunted for their body parts or taken alive and sold as pets.
Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh has won the “Green Oscar” from the Whitley Fund for Nature for her work. She will use the money to work with the government to establish conservation areas and to advocate for tougher laws to protect wildlife.
A reserve in the Ise Forest has recently been approved by Nigeria’s state government, following years of campaigning.
Despite this “good news”, she fears for the chimps’ future if coronavirus strikes.
It’s not known if great apes can contract the virus, but precautionary measures are being taken.
Gorilla tourism in Africa has been suspended, while sanctuaries for other apes, such as orangutans, have closed to the public.
“The fears for the chimps are great because chimpanzees share about 98% of human genetics,” she says. “They are very vulnerable to contracting or being infected by any disease that humans have.”