Lost Apes Of The Congo

A TIME reporter travels deep into the African jungle in search of a mysterious chimp called the lion killer

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That's an open question. The forests here have been hit hard by commercial poaching. Kalashnikov-wielding hunters stage raids from the Central African Republic and central Congo. Pontier, the missionary pilot, used to see herds of a hundred elephants when he first flew over the region in 1983. Now three together is a rare sighting. And with the big animals nearly gone, Ammann, who has set up a conservation project in the area, says the poachers are turning to hogs, antelopes, monkeys and chimpanzees. "The pressure on smaller game is increasing now that the elephants are gone," he says. If there's one thing all the scientists can agree on, it's that if this part of Congo goes the way of other African wild lands, the great apes could soon disappear. All that will be left of the Bili ape is the mystery.

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