The greatest threats to the conservation of great apes and gibbons are habitat loss and poaching. Logging, agriculture, mining, and expanded human settlement subject ape habitat to fragmentation and degradation. Wild populations are at risk from human predation, the live pet trade, and the spread of human diseases. This chapter focuses on the major societal and transformative forces that drive habitat loss, in particular the expansion of extractive industries into the remaining forests in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Substantial economic growth is expected in these regions over the next several decades, accompanied by increased industrialization and higher levels of consumption by an expanding middle class. This growth puts additional stress on wild animal populations, including those where armed conflicts have been linked to massacres of apes in the past. Conserving ape species therefore requires a substantial worldwide effort by governments, NGOs, consumers and industry, including the financial industry. One potential model for how to organize this effort is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a project to disseminate information about the practices of international mining and logging companies. Although EITI does not focus on conservation as such, it provides a framework for reporting and monitoring that could easily be expanded to cover issues of animal protection. In addition, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the largest source of private-sector loans to businesses in the developing world, has begun implementing new Performance Standards that require companies to minimize their impact on animal habitat and the natural environment. If vigorously enforced, these standards can be a powerful tool for conservation and the preservation of ape populations.