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© Kokolopori Bonobo Research Project


Apes - bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and gibbons - are human’s closest living relatives. They are genetically, behaviorally and physiologically similar to us. They use tools, have many of the same emotions, hunt collaboratively, and use many of the same gestures for communicating as humans. Apes have long-lasting bonds between individuals especially within their family. Almost all apes are listed as either Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - the classifications given to species that are most at risk for extinction. Although apes face many of the same threats as other taxa, they are especially vulnerable due to their life history with long periods of maturation and low birth rates, resulting in very slow population growth rates. Even a slight increase in mortality rates can quickly result in negative growth rates and population declines, from which it will take decades or centuries to recover. 

Apes are:

  • an integral part of ecosystems and sustainable landscapes.

  • umbrella species with geographic ranges that overlap many regions of the world where biodiversity is at great risk.

  • important ‘keystone species’ in that they are important for the functioning of ecosystems, especially due to their role as seed dispersers.

  • outstanding flagship species for conservation since they are charismatic and can help stimulate awareness, action and funding.

  • one of the major draws in tourism and an important source of scientific understanding for our own biology and evolution.

Apes can be divided into two taxonomic groups: Great Apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans) and Small Apes (gibbons)

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