Apes and Agriculture

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.3389/fcosc.2023.1225911. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

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Erik Meijaard, Nabillah Unus, Thina Ariffin, Rona Dennis, Marc Ancrenaz, Serge Wich, Sven Wunder, Sheng Goh Chun, Julie Sherman, Matthew A Ogwu, Johannes Refisch, Jonathan Ledgard, Douglas Sheil, Kimberley Hockings


Non-human great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans – are threatened by agricultural expansion particularly from rice, cacao, cassava, maize, and oil palm cultivation. Agriculture replaces and fragments great ape habitats, bringing them closer to humans and often resulting in conflict. Though the impact of agriculture on great apes is well-recognized, there is still a need for more nuanced understanding of specific contexts and associated effects on habitats and populations. Here we review these contexts and highlight synergistic and antagonistic co-occurrences between agriculture, both subsistence and commercial, and great apes. We estimate that one individual great ape shares its habitat with about 100 people, mostly outside protected areas. This makes it challenging to balance the needs of both humans and great apes given the growing human population and increasing demand for resources. Further habitat loss is expected, particularly in Africa, where compromises must be sought to re-direct agricultural expansion driven by subsistence farmers with small fields (generally <0.64 ha) away from remaining great ape habitats. To promote coexistence between humans and great apes, new approaches and financial models need to be implemented at local scales. More broadly, optimized land use planning, along with strategic investments in agriculture and wildlife conservation, can maximize the synergy between conservation and food production. Effective governance and conservation financing are crucial for optimal outcomes in both conservation and food security. Enforcing forest conservation laws, engaging in trade policy discussions, and integrating policies on trade, food security, circular agriculture, and sustainable food systems are vital to prevent further decline in great ape populations. Saving great apes requires consideration of the specific agricultural contexts, not just focusing on the apes themselves.




Agricultural and Resource Economics, Environmental Studies, Zoology


conservation, conservation finance, crop foraging, food security, food systems, great apes, poverty, rural development


Published: 2023-05-22 06:37

Last Updated: 2023-05-22 10:37


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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