A Holistic Approach to Protecting Apes

April 8, 2021

As vulnerable members of complex ecosystems, nonhuman apes are threatened by the economic, health, and environmental crises created by humans. In this interconnected reality, wildlife conservation must take a holistic approach, respecting the links between human, wildlife, and environmental health and well-being. Protecting and conserving great apes and gibbons requires diverse strategies, from influencing human behaviors to evidence-based conservation planning to making sure sanctuaries are sustainable.

The latest grants in Arcus’ Great Apes & Gibbons Program address a range of interconnected issues to support and protect wildlife around the world.

Smart conservation strategies
The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) received a grant for the implementation of components of the Conservation Action Plan (CAP) for Great Apes in the Eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). This region is home to the entire eastern lowland gorilla population and a majority of eastern chimpanzees. More than a dozen organizations are collaborating as the Ushiriki Consortium, coordinated by JGI, to conserve apes and other wildlife and forests while improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in this large and highly biodiverse area.

The CAP takes a One Health approach, understanding that human, wildlife, and environmental health are inextricably linked. Elevating the role of local and indigenous people in natural resource management, the grant will support holistic responses to such issues as mining, disease, the wild-meat trade, and strengthening governance and management of customary lands, as well as improvements to care in two DRC sanctuaries: the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center and Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE).

Two grants will support work to conserve chimpanzees in Kibale National Park in western Uganda, who are threatened by both hunting and human diseases.

Village Enterprise will use its funding for PARKS: Poverty Alleviation & Removal of Kibale Snares project, reducing threats to chimpanzees and improving human well-being in and around the park, which is home to one of the largest remaining populations of chimpanzees in East Africa. PARKS, a collaboration with Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, aims to support both humans and chimps by combining efforts to alleviate poverty through microenterprise with work to increase anti-poaching patrols and snare removal.

In addition to hunting, chimpanzees in Kibale National Park are threatened by emerging infectious diseases. Human pediatric respiratory viruses have killed 15 percent of infected chimpanzees in the park. A grant to The Kasiisi Project will support “Healthy Children: Healthy Chimps,” a pilot project tracking transmission of viruses between children and chimpanzees, bringing diagnostic testing and technological capacity to Uganda, and expanding implementation of the program to partner field sites.

Wildlife Impact received a grant to protect wildlife in developing countries by creating and promoting evidence-based conservation and welfare strategies across a number of landscapes and organizations. The support will resource Wildlife Impact’s work to strengthen national laws and enforcement to protect apes by engaging as part of a coalition under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); help improve the likelihood of appropriate captive care of apes in sanctuaries; and, where possible and appropriate, support ape reintroduction into forest habitats aligned with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.

Sustainable sanctuaries
Longtime partner Save the Chimps, which offers lifelong care to chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, the pet trade, and the entertainment industry, received renewal funding. The Florida sanctuary is currently home to about 230 chimpanzees living on 3- to 5-acre islands. Under the leadership of a new chief executive officer, Save the Chimps will pilot a new climbing structure that could serve as a model for upgrading structures throughout the facility. The sanctuary will also implement a standardized testing protocol for COVID-19 to protect its residents.

The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance will continue implementing a fundraising plan to provide safe, permanent homes for the 32 chimpanzees still displaced by the 2019 closure of Wildlife Waystation in California. Investments in existing chimpanzee sanctuaries will not only enable housing for these individuals, but also increase the overall capacity of U.S. facilities to consistently and sustainably provide high levels of care.

Raising awareness, influencing actions
Information and awareness are essential to encouraging behaviors and actions that support the conservation of apes and the coexistence of humans and wildlife.

Conservation news outlet Mongabay received renewal support for a special reporting project about threats to apes, issues that impact their conservation and well-being, and the global and grassroots efforts to save them. Mongabay will expand coverage by funding a Francophone Africa news editor.

Borneo Nature Foundation received a second grant to collaborate with Internet of Elephants and Goualougo Triangle Ape Project to continue developing Wildeverse, an online game that aims to change perceptions and behaviors to protect forests and wildlife. The support will help to update the game based on player feedback and customize it for users in Indonesia, a country with an estimated 100 million gamers and numerous critical ape habitats.

Also receiving grants this funding cycle were:

  • Chimbo Foundation to link chimpanzee and human culture and build conservation practices in Boé, Guinea Bissau.
  • Pan African Sanctuary Alliance to strengthen capacity for the alliance and its key member sanctuaries to implement a communications program intended to effect social and behavioral change to reduce the illegal trade of western chimpanzees.

Learn about all Arcus grants awarded since 2007.