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Yahoo! News   Thu, September 05, 2002
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U.N.: World's Apes at Risk
Wed Sep 4, 4:37 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - The rapid destruction of the world's rain forests could force at least 13 ape species to go extinct within 30 years, a U.N. Environment Program study found.

The majority of gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia could be wiped out as their natural habitat is destroyed by logging and human settlement, said the UNEP study released Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Summit on poverty and the environment.

Hunting also threatens the ape populations.

The World Summit attended by 191 nations agreed to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

"The fate of the great apes will be the litmus test of whether the world succeeds in this important goal or not," UNEP head Klaus Toepfer said.

UNEP is coordinating a program aimed at preserving the world's forests to ensure the great apes' survival.

"By conserving the great apes, we will also protect the livelihoods of the many people that rely on forests for food, medicine and clean water," Toepfer said.

Conservationist Jane Goodall said the world's chimpanzee population had decreased from 2 million a century ago to about 200,000 now.

The gorilla population also has been devastated, with only a few thousand lowland gorillas remaining in Rwanda, Uganda and Republic of Congo.

"The great apes are so much like us. They cry, they laugh, and they have a sense of humor," she said. "We can't give up on our closest living relatives."

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