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Close up of chimp in a tree.

African Apes Initiative

Saving Africa’s great apes from the brink of extinction.

Tags: DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Virunga, Bonobo, Cameroon, Mountain Gorilla, Chimpanzee

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  • A gorilla family in foliage
  • A close up of a large silverback gorilla
  • A close up of a large male silverback mountain gorilla
  • A gorilla shows his teeth while eating foliage
  • A chimpanzee climbing a tree
  • A bonobo reclining in a tree
  • Lowland gorilla rides on its mother's back
  • Ape reclines in a tree
Descriptions & Plan

All of Africa’s great ape species are either endangered or critically endangered.

Africa is home to four of the world’s five great apes: the bonobo, chimpanzee, and two species of gorilla—the eastern and western. Unfortunately, all of these apes are facing extinction due to a number of threats, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, poaching, the risk of disease transfer from humans, and the pet trade.

African Apes Initiative addresses the immediate threats facing the continent’s apes.

The primary objective of the African Apes Initiative (AAI) is to work toward conserving at least one population of each of the nine subspecies of African Apes by prioritizing great ape habitats that are in greatest need of conservation intervention.

We identify landscapes with long-term potential to sustain African ape populations and work with partners on the ground to conserve those ecosystems

Currently, AWF already has projects in three key ecosystems:

The Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is home to about 1,000 bonobos. Here, AWF worked with the Congolese Wildlife Authority and community to establish a faunal reserve and a scientific research center.

Niokolo-Koba National Park, where a specific population of western chimpanzee, that uses both woodland and savanna habitats, resides. AWF provided training to the park authority using the CyberTracker ecological monitoring tool.

The Dja Biosphere Reserve in southern Cameroon where populations of both the central chimpanzee and western lowland gorilla are found. AWF conducted preliminary scoping in the Cameroonian-Congolese forests and is also providing training to park authority, as we did in Niokolo-Koba. 

Technology Enables Conservation

To better understand the threats facing apes—and create systematized processes for data collection and monitoring—AWF is working with CyberTracker and SMART Conservation Software technologies. View the story map below to see how these tactics and others are allowing us to protect Africa’s apes.

African Apes Initiative Map

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