Chimpanzee Isolation


Humans and Chimpanzees naturally move and roam about large areas of land. We humans do not simply sit in our house all day long; we move around. We can go outside or go to a friend’s house and even travel to other cities, states, and countries. Chimpanzees naturally move around their habitats as well. They cover long distances in the rainforests of Africa where they live.  When moving about, chimpanzees will spend time in both the trees and on the ground with a large portion of travel being spent on the ground. A main difference between our ability to move around to new land areas and chimps’ abilities to move around their habitat is that chimps can run into huge obstacles; ones that are created by the roads and other elements of human civilization that we humans insert into the land. 


Think about how we often move from one area to another. We can use roads, sidewalks, and other types of paths to get about. The creation of roads for human use in Africa has led to deforestation in many areas. This deforestation, due to a rise in the human population, has taken a toll on the chimpanzee population. Originally there had been 25 countries that contained chimpanzees; unfortunately only 21 of these countries still have chimpanzees. Areas of rainforest that chimps use to move from one location to the next or compose the land area used by chimps to travel have disappeared and are continually disappearing, causing a great impact on the chimpanzee population. The deforestation is not only due to the creation of roads, but is also due to the general increase in the human population in regions of Africa. As the human population  in Africa increases  there is a demand for more land for homes, farms, and industry such as logging. Logging not only physically removes the trees from land chimpanzees use but we once again find roads created for large trucks to carry out the trees disrupting the habitats that chimpanzees utilize. 


With such deforestation chimpanzees have been separated from sections of land of which they once were free to make use and are now in isolated “pockets”. To get a clearer picture of these “pockets” imagine yourself on a small island surrounded by water where the only way to the next island is by a connecting strip of land. Now imagine that a bulldozer comes through and removes the land that connected the two islands. You are now stuck on the island with no way of leaving. This is exactly what is happening with the chimps’ forests. They are being caught on islands of forest because we are surrounding them with “water” such as roads and farm land.


Although the chimps are being caught on these islands, there are ways that can help them once again move from one area of land to the next. For example, imagine yourself back on your small island that is fully surrounded by water. Now imagine there is a bridge that has been built between the two islands. Even though the bridge is not the original connection between the two areas of land it looks similar to the original land strip as well as serves the original purpose. It allows you to move freely between the two islands. In Africa, trees can be planted between two isolated pockets of chimpanzees to create a “bridge” of habitat known as a corridor which allows free movement  between areas of habitat. The corridors may not be the original lands that once connected the vast habitat of chimpanzees, but they provide passage ways between areas of habitat that, without, would be separated from chimpanzees forever. Corridors provide hope that there is something that can be done to help chimpanzees from being lost from our world due to isolation!



Message from CAC'ers


When we visited Gombe National Park we saw  the effects of the surrounding human population on chimpanzee rainforest habitat.  The clear, distinct forest edge and the beginning of villages were striking.  The last few trees seemed to be lined up in a straight line as the land seemed to drastically change from lush rainforest mountains to rolling hills of green grass.  It was apparent that the only way for these Gombe chimps to cover larger habitat ranges was  by the creation of corridors between existing pockets of chimpanzees.



Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.