It is beyond doubt that forest clearance and degradation have a direct impact on apes through habitat destruction and fragmentation, depriving them of food and access to other groups, which is necessary for maintaining genetic diversity. In addition, roads that open access to previously remote forests invariably facilitate the hunting, killing, and capture of apes—as well as disease transmission, as humans increasingly come into contact with apes. Deforestation has reduced the ranges and the numbers of orangutans and gibbons in Southeast Asia, and its impact on African apes is expected to increase as industrial agriculture expands on the continent.
The impact of agricultural expansion varies significantly across species. Gibbons, who are territorial and arboreal, are probably most affected by industrial agriculture. Other apes, who occasionally forage, sleep, or move about in agro-industrial landscapes, seem likely to fare better, but natural forest and natural habitat remain vital to their long-term survival. Fragmentation of ape populations caused by industrial agriculture almost inevitably results in population decline and the local extinction of species.
Although our understanding of the impact of industrial agriculture on apes and their ecology, behavior, and conservation remains limited, it is clear that concerted efforts are required on several fronts to protect apes and their habitats more effectively. Specifically, there is a need for land-use planning that considers key habitats and essential ecological functions, implementation of best management practices, increased tolerance and understanding of apes among humans, and dedicated research on how agriculture is affecting apes and their habitats.