great apes.

i’ve long been a reader of earthweek which bills itself as a diary of the planet and features short pieces on science, health, weather, environment, and nature from around the globe.

a recent report on apes caught my attention so i’m reprinting it below:

some of humankind’s closest relatives are literally being eaten to extinction, according to wildlife experts.

a new study of human settlements in the most remote parts of the democratic republic of the congo shows that chimpanzees have become the victims of a wave of killing by bushmeat hunters.

meat from the primates is sold openly in the markets of kisangani and smaller towns, where officials are failing to enforce the ban on killing chimps.

I was actually astonished to see the sheer quantities of bushmeat being taken out of the forest, researcher cleve hicks of the university of amsterdam told the u.k.’s the guardian newspaper.

hicks says that the killing of adult chimps has left a large number of young orphans, many of which are captured and kept as pets.

the spread of christianity across the congo basin has swept away many traditional tribal beliefs, including taboos about eating bushmeat.

the barisi tribe used to never harm the primates because they believed they were the descendants of a union between a man and a female chimp.

one of the things i like about earthweek is that they do not operate under any sort of agenda, which is evident in the above excerpt (well, unless you treat evolution as an elitist concept that undermines your intelligence). their tone does, however, often take an apocalyptic slant: the world is probably not going to end as the result of a few landslides or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so temper some of the talk about tons of mud and rock burying scores of people.

the most compelling part of this post is the conclusion that intrusion into this area by missionaries, whose efforts at proselytizing the savages rather than trying to understand their culture, has had some dramatic side effects. it’s a shame that we learn nothing after years of blindly insisting that our civilization is the only one that matters and subjecting individuals to our ways at all costs to their environment. earthweek’s greatest success is presenting these ideas and emphasizing areas of the world that are regularly avoided and elicit shoulder shrugs.

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