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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Chimpanzees, long under threat from humans encroaching on their habitat, are now facing another risk caused by that same member of the Great Ape family: the global economic crisis, says primatologist Jane Goodall.
Funding to the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit organization that aims to conserve primate habitats and increase awareness of animal welfare activities, has declined by about 10 percent since the financial crisis hit.
"Money that came in last year was less than we had expected," Goodall told Reuters in Singapore while visiting for events related to World Environment Day. "The private donors and some of the foundations pulled back."
The institute, which has an annual budget of $10-11 million which funds its activities in Africa, has had to dig into its endowment fund to keep some of its programs running. Some projects were cut and staff laid off.
Goodall, who rose to fame in the 1960s through her ground-breaking study of chimpanzees in East Africa, said the root cause of most problems was overpopulation and the materialism of most human societies.
"Underlying everything is the sheer number of people on the planet," said 75-year-old Goodall. "We take far, far, far, far more than our fair share of these precious natural resources."
"We have to help people understand that enough is enough. We have so much more than we need, we have a throwaway society."
Such strident demands on the environment have seen previously forested areas being taken over by humans for housing, agriculture and business, leading to a dwindling population of chimpanzees and other animals in the wild.
Goodall estimates there are currently there are about 300,000 chimpanzees spread across 21 nations in Africa, down from the 1-2 million in 1960.
The animal rights activist, who fulfilled her childhood dream to live in the wild and write books, spends 300 days a year on the road using her personal story and fame to inspire youth to become more environmentally responsible.
"Root & Shoots," a youth organization she started with 12 high-school students in Tanzania in 1991, now involves people from pre-schoolers to university students and prisoners across 111 countries. It aims to raise awareness about the planet.
"People understand a lot more, but it doesn't mean they always change their behavior though," Goodall said. "The last hurdle is to get people not only to understand, but take action. The bigger problem is that again, again and again that people honestly cannot believe that what they do makes a difference."
Editing by Miral Fahmy