Protecting Africa’s Great Apes

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa

Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), portrait. Orphaned gorillas reintroduced into the wild. Distribution: tropical rainforest, Western and Central Africa (Nigeria to DRC).
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY


Africa’s great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos – are facing many threats: destruction of forest habitats for agriculture, mining and commercial logging; illegal trade; disease; and conflict with humans. Hunting for bushmeat has also become a major commercial enterprise, especially in west and central Africa. The great apes face extinction in the next few decades if urgent action is not taken to conserve them.

In response to the ongoing threats faced by these endangered species, WWF is working throughout Africa to assist countries develop conservation policies and strategies, improve the effectiveness of protected areas, stop the illegal trade in ape products, and increase support for ape conservation.


Africa’s great apes face a combination of threats. These include destruction of forest habitats for agriculture, mining and commercial logging, hunting, disease, and conflict with humans. Most significant, however, is hunting for bushmeat for commercial trade, which has become the single most imminent threat to African great apes throughout their range states.

All species have suffered population declines and many experts fear they could become extinct in the wild within the next half century unless action is taken to address these threats.

The 9 species and sub-species are:
- Western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus)
- Nigerian chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes vellerosus)
- Central chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes)
- Eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodyes schweinfurthii)
- Cross river gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
- Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
- Eastern lowland / Graueri gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)
- Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)
- Bonobo (Pan paniscus)


WWF’s work is organized around 6 objectives:

1) Protection and management: conserve viable populations of African great apes through improved protection and management.
2) Community support: increase public support for great ape conservation by providing incentives and reducing human-ape conflicts.
3) Policy: establish relevant conservation policies, strategies and laws that eliminate ape poaching and unsustainable forest practices.
4) Capacity building: increase capacity within range states to conserve and manage great apes.
5) Trade: reduce illegal national and international trade in great apes and great ape products.
6) Awareness: raise awareness of African great apes conservation.


Specific identified solutions include:
- Conservation of Western chimpanzees in Tai National Park, Côte d'Ivoire.
- Conservation and monitoring of Nigerian chimpanzee in Gashaka Gumti National Park, Nigeria.
- Conservation, ecology and monitoring of Western lowland gorillas in Ebo Forest, Cameroon.
- Feasibility project (phase II) for gorilla and chimpanzee habitation for research and tourism in Campo Ma'an National Park, Cameroon.
- Ape populations baseline data collection for conservation in Jengi project, TRIDOM, Cameroon.
- Socio-economic impacts of ape-focused ecotourism in Central African Republic.
- Establishing and managing protected areas for bonobos, Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Conservation of the Tongo populaton of Eastern chimpanzees in the Virunga ecosystem, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Conservation of Eastern lowland gorillas in Itombe forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Support to the development and implementation of national great ape survival plans.

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