Partners work to unite diverse stakeholders in conservation efforts while holding destructive actors to account

December 27, 2019

From having their habitats destroyed to pave the way for large-scale development projects or agriculture, to being hunted for food, to being exploited by the entertainment industry —great apes and gibbons face multiple human-made threats to their survival.

Fortunately, a growing number of organizations are working to save the world’s remaining nonhuman apes from extinction. Arcus’ Great Apes and Gibbons Program is channeling support to a number of these groups in a docket that emphasizes engaging local communities, governments, companies, and other key stakeholders in efforts to protect and preserve populations.

Many of our latest grants support projects that integrate human rights, economic development and sustainability, and cultural sensitivity into conservation efforts.

For example, in Indonesia, Forest People’s Programme will pilot a new approach to protecting the land rights of local communities and the habitats of orangutans from the negative effects of palm oil production. This approach will involve communities, state authorities, and palm oil companies in efforts to prevent expansion of plantations onto local lands and the illegal clearing of forests in Tanjung Putting National Park—home to one of the largest orangutan populations in Borneo. The goal is to show how public and private entities can work together to preserve biodiversity and protect the land rights and livelihoods of local people, while still benefiting economically from large-scale agriculture projects.

Also in Indonesia, Greenpeace will use its support to hold to account local authorities and corporate actors for violating regulations intended to prevent deforestation. It will do this by documenting and exposing instances of corruption and collusion that have facilitated deforestation by palm oil companies. Greenpeace will also shine a spotlight on the companies themselves, “naming and shaming” those that miss a 2020 deadline to deliver on their commitments to end deforestation and leveraging the bad press to advocate for change.

Global Wildlife Conservation will spearhead a task force of the Section on Great Apes and Section on Small Apes of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, focused on mitigating the harmful effects of large-scale infrastructure projects on nonhuman apes and local people in Africa and Asia. These projects, which include hydropower dams, mines, and road networks, are typically launched with the stated aim of spurring economic growth. However, once executed, the initiatives often fail to benefit the general public, including communities living near or on area land and waterways, and contribute to the destruction of habitats where apes and gibbons live. Coordinated by a group of the foremost experts on great apes and small apes, the task force will engage the private sector, lending banks, and governments to ensure infrastructure projects protect local livelihoods, land rights, and biodiversity.

Wildlife Conservation Society will also implement projects that engage various stakeholders in ape conservation. One such initiative will support the Cross River Gorilla Transboundary Conservation Consolidation Project, which brings together government partners, NGOs, and local communities in Nigeria and Cameroon to protect the critically endangered Cross River gorilla. Another aims to curb the wildmeat trade in Democratic Republic of the Congo through social marketing and behavior change campaigns designed to reduce demand for bushmeat, including ape meat.

Arcus continues to fund organizations that care and advocate for the health and well-being of non-human apes. With our support, Gorilla Doctors will maintain its work to monitor the health of endangered mountain gorillas in eastern DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda; provide veterinary care as needed; and promote the occupational health of gorilla park personnel and their families.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will continue its cutting-edge advocacy and campaigning to end the use of great apes and other animals in the media. This effort saw further progress in the 2019 live-action version of the film Aladdin, which uses CGI to portray its animal characters, including monkey Abu.

Finally, the Whitley Fund for Nature received support for one of its annual awards recognizing stand-out conservationists working in ape-range states in Africa and Asia.

Also receiving grants this cycle are the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (a coalition of sanctuaries whose members care for primates retired from laboratory research, the entertainment industry, and private ownership) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (which supports the betterment of sanctuaries, rescue centers, and rehabilitation centers caring for wildlife or farmed animals); Wildlife Conservation Society for surveying the newly-discovered Skywalker Hoolock gibbon population; Kalaweit and Stichting Wanicare to rehabilitate and care for gibbons in Southeast Asia; and Conservation Analytics for ensuring implementation of stricter rules regulating ape trade.