Safeguarding Ape Habitats through Collaborative, Community-Centered Conservation

November 16, 2022

When a habitat disappears faster than native species can adapt, their very existence is jeopardized. This scenario is playing out in the forest homes of already endangered apes across Africa and Asia, where human activities threaten to fragment and degrade more than 90% of ape habitats by 2030. This daunting future can still be prevented, but doing so will require urgent action from all corners of society to radically rethink humanity’s relationship with, and as part of, nature. 

The latest grants in Arcus’ Great Apes & Gibbons Program support organizations spearheading holistic and collaborative efforts to stop the destruction, and working with some of the communities most impacted by environmental degradation to keep ape habitats safe.

Empowering local and Indigenous communities to protect threatened ecosystems
The habitats of endangered apes across Africa and Asia face a diversity of threats, but each shares a common need: the skills and knowledge of local and Indigenous communities who live within and alongside these ecosystems. Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) received funds to work with Indigenous Peoples living near several key ape habitats in Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cameroon, and Indonesia to strengthen rights-based approaches to conservation. Learning from across these sites can help us better understand how securing the ancestral land rights and lifeways of Indigenous Peoples can support ape conservation, even in politically complex regions.

Following a nearly decade-long collaborative effort, the 2016 establishment of Lomami National Park in DRC marked a significant milestone in the conservation of endangered bonobos. Yet much work remains to strengthen the long-term protection of the park and reconcile conservation goals with the rights and needs of local people. A grant to Frankfurt Zoological Society US supports efforts to help local communities along the northeastern segment of the park play a lead role in demarcating the park’s borders while developing sustainable cacao farming initiatives as an alternative to hunting.

Also receiving funds is Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) for ongoing partnerships with Congolese groups to monitor human rights abuses in the region, accurately map the borders and buffer zones between Lomami National Park and local villages, and advocate for greater community leadership in the park’s conservation.

Driven by a changing climate and rapidly increasing habitat destruction, ecosystems across the planet have faced an unprecedented loss of biodiversity in recent years, and the impacts on humans and all other species are only just beginning to come to light. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is using support to provide grants toward locally led initiatives in Uganda, Cameroon, and DRC exploring and addressing the intersections of ape conservation, biodiversity loss, poverty, human rights, and the illegal wildlife trade.

Stemming and reversing the tide of destruction in key ape habitats
Sebangau National Park and Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park form two of the last remaining strongholds for agile gibbons and Bornean orangutans in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province. A grant to Fairventures Worldwide supports the establishment of a protected forest corridor between the two parks, facilitating the free movement of endangered apes and other wildlife. As part of this initiative, Fairventures will identify threats to the corridor and support local communities’ efforts to serve as stewards of the forest while they turn away from palm oil production and mining in favor of sustainable livelihood practices, including the cultivation of food and nesting trees critical to orangutan survival.

Long plagued by illegal logging, palm oil production, and other exploitative practices, Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem has seen significant progress toward protection in recent years due to the tireless efforts of local Indonesian organizations to hold producers accountable. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) received funding to further build the capacity of this movement to halt and reverse the degradation of this key habitat for Sumatran orangutans, agile gibbons, and siamang through media campaigns, research, and direct advocacy targeting producers.

Home to agile gibbons, siamangs, and Tapanuli orangutans, Sumatra’s Batang Toru Forest Ecosystem is a hotspot for ape biodiversity. A grant to People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) will strengthen a recently established consortium of Indonesian organizations working to drive a holistic movement for protecting the ecosystem that focuses on community-based conservation and forest governance.

Guinea’s Pinselli-Soyah-Sabouyah region is home to one of the densest populations of western chimpanzees. A railway for the transport of iron ore threatens to carve a path of destruction through the forest ecosystem. Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) received support to work with government and industry to ensure adherence to an existing plan to mitigate the impacts of the planned rail route, minimize damage to the surrounding forest, and build government capacity to manage future mitigation activities.  

Also receiving grants this funding cycle were:

  • GRAIN for efforts to understand factors driving the expansion of industrial plantations for oil palm and other commodity crops, as well as to support the Informal Alliance Against the Expansion of Industrial Palm Oil in West and Central Africa to build solidarity and stand against threats posed by industrial agricultural expansion to key ape habitats in the region.
  • Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to fund monetary prizes incentivizing active participation in Giving Day for Apes (held October 11, 2022) among qualified ape sanctuaries and rescue centers in Africa, Asia, and North America.
  • Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) to develop and reinforce community-based management of orangutan, gibbon, and siamang habitats in the Indonesian provinces of East Kalimantan and West Java.
  • Design Pathways, fiscally sponsored by Social Good Fund, for the development of educational resources to help members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Section on Small Apes (SSA) build leadership skills and overcome obstacles, including regulatory hurdles and capacity limitations in their work to conserve endangered gibbons and their habitats.
  • Support for Conservation of Bonobos for improving local understanding of the importance of bonobo conservation while preventing poaching and other illegal activities in and around DRC’s Luo Reserve.
  • Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) for its social and behavior change communication work, building capacity in its member sanctuaries to effectively work with local communities and address threats to great apes.
  • Alliance for Conservation of Great Apes in Central Africa for strengthening the capacity and leadership skills of eight Central African civil society organizations in their efforts to improve great ape conservation among the forests of the Congo Basin.
  • Friends of Chimps to support Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary to bolster its recovery and resilience in the face of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic inflation, while continuing to provide quality care to the 52 resident chimpanzees.
  • AgroEcology Fund, fiscally sponsored by Global Greengrants Fund, to build understanding of how agroecological food systems, which take into account the biological and cultural diversity of the surrounding landscape, can help achieve rights-based, locally led conservation of endangered apes and their habitats in the Congo Basin.
  • Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) for work to secure the fundamental rights of nonhuman animals through litigation, legislation, and education, with a particular focus on high-profile court cases in United States jurisdictions.

Learn about all Arcus grants awarded since 2007.