Uganda Signs New Plan to Save Chimps

96 per cent of the known populations of eastern chimpanzees could be protected with a new action plan to stamp out illegal hunting and trafficking of the animals.

Uganda and seven other countries in East and Central Africa have developed a 10-year plan to save the eastern chimpanzee from hunting, habitat loss, disease, the capture of infants for the pet trade.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Wildlife Conservation Society led the process to develop the chimpanzee protection plan. The plan calls for the conservation of 16 areas, which if protected would conserve around 50,000 chimps.

However, the total number could be as high as 200,000, almost double the estimates that have been made previously.

In a statement released to the media today, Dr. Andrew Plumptre, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Albertine Rift Program says the effort to assess the status of eastern chimpanzees will help focus conservation actions more effectively. He says that in the next decade the plan is to minimize the threats to chimp populations and the ecological and cultural diversity they support.

Uganda's chimpanzees are among the most researched great ape populations in the world.

A new study published in the latest edition of ‘Current Biology' journal says some gangs of chimpanzees beat their neighbors to death to grab land and expand their turf.

While scientists have long known that chimps will kill each other on occasion, the finding confirms a long-held hypothesis that humans\' closest living relatives sometimes turn to violence to annex valuable land.

Researchers observed predominantly male patrol groups sent out by a 150-strong chimp group at Ngogo in Kibale National Park. The chimp gangs killed 21 of their neighbors between 1999 and 2008.

John Mitani, the study leader, says multiple chimps attack their victims with their fists and feet. He says the victims are usually totally immobilized and don\'t really stand a chance of getting away.

The Ngogo chimps have used this violence to add bits and pieces to their 29-square-kilometer territory over the years.

Mitani says the findings probably reveal little about the much more varied and complex reasons that humans go to war. In fact, he says, the study might offer insight into the origins of human cooperation.