Happy Earth Day! Today, I am going out to the National Mall in Washington DC to March for Science! Why do I march? Because of our planet’s species are under attack, not only by global problems like the illegal wildlife trade, unsustainable agriculture, and climate change, but by the policy makers in our own back yard.
To show the importance that wildlife plays in the health of our planet I’ve chosen to share an example that involves a species close to my heart: Chimpanzees.
How on earth do wild chimpanzee populations have any effect at all on global climate you say? Well, first we need to know a bit about chimpanzees and a bit about the climate.
Chimpanzees, or Pan troglodytes, are a species or great ape found across equatorial Africa, a place that at one time was full of dense forests but is now being regularly logged and burned down for agricultural purposes. In these equatorial forests animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, and elephants are some of the only large seed dispersers. What this means is that certain trees drop fruit that are too large for most forest species to carry away or ingest the seed, however, large animals like gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants can carry a lot more than your average mona monkey and are therefore important for getting the seeds to other parts in the forest. Think of them as essential forest gardeners.
Why are large-scale rainforests, like the ones in equatorial Africa so important? Rainforests have the ability to hold carbon, and a forest like the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo can hold around 17 million tons of carbon. And, not only are they important for maintaining a balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but NASA scientists have actually linked the deforestation of the rainforest in equatorial Africa to droughts across the American Midwest.
This means that having higher populations of animals like chimpanzees could help reforest the thousands of acres that are annually deforested which would actually increase food production across the United States.
What can you do to help chimpanzee conservation? Support awesome organizations like the Jane Goodall Institute, Ape Alliance, or take the time to contact your local representatives to inform them how important you think the Paris Agreement is for not only our planet, but also for our local economies.