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Illegal Cocoa Farms are Devastating Ivory Coast Primate Populations

posted: 04/02/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Chimpanzee picking his mate's nose.
Karl Ammann/DCI

Scientists intending to census endangered primates in Ivory Coast instead encountered a chilling reality: designated wildlife conservation areas have been stealthily transformed into illegal cocoa farms. Thanks to a rising demand for chocolate throughout the world, cocoa farming is now an extremely lucrative business for Ivorians.

The effect on endangered primates is staggering: 13 of the 23 conservation areas surveyed are now completely devoid of any primate life. One species of monkey, Miss Waldron's red colobus, has not been sighted since 1978 and is now likely extinct.

"There are parks in Ivory Coast with no forests and no primates, but a sea of cocoa plants," noted Ohio State University's Dr. W. Scott McGraw. "When we started walking through these areas, we were just stunned by the scale of illegal cocoa production. It is now the major cause of deforestation in these parks."

McGraw and researchers from various Ivory Coast research institutions spent 208 days surveying the 23 different conservation areas throughout the country. The team encountered unauthorized cocoa farms in all but three areas; they estimate that 74% of the total land area is now being used for cocoa production - all illegally.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest supplier of cocoa beans.

Click here for more information from Ohio State University

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