Use of the mitigation hierarchy to protect chimpanzees from development projects

13 September 2023

Large scale development projects for mining, renewables or other infrastructure can have direct and indirect impacts on great apes.

The footprint of the project can be significant and result in habitat loss and habit fragmentation, while increased numbers of people migrating to areas where development projects operate drives the need for natural resources, which can have a further impact on the apes’ habitat. It is therefore vital for projects to systematically identify their potential and actual impact, and take steps to address it.

Principal Consultant Simon Furnell spoke at the world’s foremost primatological conference to highlight what can be done to protect non-human primates. His talk took attendees through a range of real-world examples to explore the use of the mitigation hierarchy before project development to prevent impacts on chimpanzees - through avoidance and minimization – or to mitigate residual impacts during and after the project – through restoration or offsetting.

Reporting back from the conference, Simon explained:

“Development projects are high risk for primates, but experience shows that organisations can not only manage and reduce their negative impacts, but also positively contribute to their conservation. There’s an urgent need for more broad alignment with best practice standards, for conducting strategic land use planning, and for implementing effective measures.

“This conference – held every two years – is the world’s largest gathering of primatologists and an opportunity for leading academics from the field to share their research. I was delighted to be able to bring evidence of real-world impact from organisations using evidence to understand and address their impacts.”

Case studies explored how the mitigation hierarchy has been used by a number of organisations to understand and address their impacts on western chimpanzees:

  • Avoid. One organization had researched the seasonal presence of around 60 chimpanzees; as a result it created a set-aside and moved the location of a planned access road in order to avoid them.
  • Mitigate. Another had identified a seasonal presence of chimpanzees and established a buffer around the gallery forest in the area of mining concession in order to minimize impacts.
  • Restore. A third had mapped its impact on mangroves and committed to restoring an area 20 times the size of that impact in previously degraded mangroves nearby.
  • Offset. A final case study used the Moyen Bafing National Park as an example of how remaining impacts were offset when two of the companies in the previous examples joined forces to form an aggregated offset. From initial population studies, this area was considered to be home to around 4,000 chimpanzees. The area had already been earmarked by the government of Guinea for protection, but there were limited funds for the creation of the park and its management over the longer-term.

For more on the impact of infrastructure impacts on biodiversity, read our Linkedin post on managing the infrastructure-biodiversity trade-off.

Categories: Mining & Aggregates, Company news

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