Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Chimpanzees Don’t Belong on Either Side of the Theater Screen

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

A story appeared recently in the Daily Mail and Good Morning America showing images and video of two young chimpanzees, Vali and Sugriva, going to the theater with their “handlers” and watching the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The irony is that the two young chimpanzees were exploited for this publicity stunt, and brought into a theater to watch a movie that purposefully avoided using live ape actors… (Read more on Care2)

Angel was kept in a Hollywood training facility and routinely beaten and abused into submission by her trainers. She displayed a toothy grin—called a fear grimace—just at the sight of a camera. Angel was rescued by the Center for Great Apes as part of a legal suit against her former trainer.

Angel was kept in a Hollywood training facility and routinely beaten and abused into submission by her trainers. She displayed a toothy grin—called a fear grimace—just at the sight of a camera. Angel was rescued by the Center for Great Apes as part of a legal suit against her former trainer.

For more on the training facility Vali and Sugriva live at, visit our trainer page on Eyes on Apes.

Thank you to Care2 for posting our op-ed on this issue! Please share the article with your friends and get the word out that chimpanzees do not belong on either side of the theater screen.

Portraits, then and now

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Humans, like chimpanzees, are very visually oriented. I think one of the most powerful ways we can show people how important sanctuary is, is by showing the “before and after” comparisons.

After decades in research, the chimps looked like ghosts of themselves. For some of them, coming to CSNW was the first time they’d ever been outside and felt fresh air and sunshine.

In just a few months, we saw dramatic changes in their appearance. Their hair and skin darkened and they began to look (and I imagine, feel) much more healthy. As our sixth anniversary approaches (next week!) I like to look back and see how far they’ve come in six years of sanctuary.

Yesterday’s post of Burrito looking especially handsome reminded me of that same spot we took many of the “before” photos in. There’s a window right by that bench, so for their first few days here, they would sit and look out the window at the surroundings of their new home. I can’t imagine what they must have been thinking—the fear of the unknown. We know that now they have nothing to be afraid of, and everything to look forward to.

I love showing people those first photos of the chimps compared to them now out on Young’s Hill, surrounded by beautiful grass, with the sun on their backs and the view of the valley below. This time, however, I want to show a more direct comparison—the chimps sitting in the same exact spot as they did the first couple days they were here. Most if not all of the “after” photos have been posted before on the blog, but I thought it’d be nice to see them all together.

Annie before:
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Annie now:

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Burrito before:

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Burrito now:

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Foxie before:

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Foxie now:

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Jamie before:

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Jamie now:

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Jody before:

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Jody now:

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Negra before:

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Negra now:

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Negra looking at camera with night bag

We haven’t gotten a portrait of Missy in the same spot as the others, perhaps because she is always on the move. :)

Protecting Mountain Gorillas through Community Involvement

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

This is our first guest blog post about gorilla conservation, written by Gretchen Clymer. Gretchen first became passionate about primate conservation after reading Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey as a teenager. She went on to complete undergraduate and graduate studies in Biological Anthropology, conducting behavioral research on different primate species, including golden lion tamarins, rhesus macaques, and chacma baboons. She has worked for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) in both Atlanta and Musanze, Rwanda. As a primatologist, she has remained active in primate conservation and welfare, including currently working with Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

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Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Photo: Ian and Kate Bruce, 2013.

The threats to the survival of mountain gorillas, and all of the great apes, are severe and multi-faceted. Habitat loss due to logging and industry, armed conflict, the illegal bushmeat and pet trades, and infectious disease represent significant threats to the populations of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Over the past 50 years, approaches to ape conservation have shifted as conservationists understand more and more that survival of ape populations is inextricably linked with the welfare and involvement of the communities that live near chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan habitats.

Early approaches in conservation

The pioneering research conducted by Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birutė Galdikas in the 1960’s-1970’s brought the world’s attention to the fascinating behaviors of the great apes. Their work also brought to light the pressures that threatened the very survival of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Conservation approaches at that time were largely focused on preservation of habitat, and the assumption that conservation of apes and their habitat was primarily realized through enforcement. Dian Fossey, in particular, championed methods she called “active conservation,” that were often antagonistic towards communities residing on the fringes of mountain gorilla habitat. This method of conservation focused only on protecting mountain gorilla populations while failing to take into account that poachers, loggers, and encroachers were not motivated by maliciousness, but rather the simple and stark need to provide for themselves and their families.

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Bisate Health Clinic, Musanze, Rwanda. Photo: Gretchen Clymer, 2007.

The shift towards community-involved conservation

Habitat preservation is certainly paramount in working for the survival of the great apes, and this requires legislation to protect habitat as well as enforcement of existing legal protections for ape habitat and poaching bans. However, as approaches in ape conservation have been refined over the last 50 years, conservationists have learned the importance of embracing local communities in conservation, and of the intertwined relationship between human welfare and ape conservation.

Since Dian Fossey’s untimely and tragic death in 1985, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) and other mountain gorilla conservation groups have taken a different approach to conservation, focusing on including the local community into conservation efforts, through community programs, research, and eco-tourism.

It is estimated that “gorilla tourism may exceed $30 million USD shared between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)” (International Gorilla Conservation Program, 2014). Gorilla and other great ape eco-tourism not only brings money directly to conservation efforts by providing funds for anti-poaching patrols and research studies, but also helps to create a link to the local community by establishing a tourism industry, which in turn provides financial security to the area while actively discouraging unsustainable poaching and deforestation practices. Providing social services for population areas where community needs are great and currently unmet is an additional effective strategy to involve the community in conservation efforts. For example, the DFGFI, partnering with other organizations, provides funding for the Bisate Health Clinic, a rural health clinic in Musanze, Rwanda, by helping to promote health, education, and economic growth in an attempt to provide these communities with the opportunities to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on resources gathered from within the boundaries of the park.

Another program, in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest of Uganda, is Conservation through Public Health, which has focused on preventing “the spread of disease from wild animals to humans, and vice versa, by improving primary healthcare for people and animals in and around protected areas in Africa” (Whitley Fund for Nature, 2011). The program has sought to engage the local community by enlisting their help with gorilla population surveys and monitoring, as well as devoting efforts to community-led outreach and education. Conservation through Public Health also strengthens eco-tourism programs by improving facilities for this important conservation sector and ensuring that disease from visiting guests is not then spread to vulnerable mountain gorillas.

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Virungas Volcanic Range, Rwanda. Photo: Gretchen Clymer, 2007.

Educational programs and support are another important realm in community-involved conservation. Practical education programs on health and sustainability can support local communities and ease resource or ecological pressures on ape habitat resources. Conservation education (from primary through graduate education levels), fosters local pride and involvement in conservation and can be hugely impactful in ongoing conservation efforts for apes. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is active in nearly every level of educational opportunity in the communities near mountain gorilla habitat – from health education programs in local communities, to conservation education in local schools, up through graduate research training at the Karisoke research center. These efforts not only demonstrate that conservation is beneficial to the local communities, they show respect to communities as key stakeholders in conservation.

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Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Photo: Ian and Kate Bruce, 2013.

Signs for Hope

In the past decade, it appears community-outreach focused conservational approaches show promising signs of success for the mountain gorillas. A 2010 census of mountain gorillas showed a ~26% increase in their numbers in the Virungas since the prior census in 2003 (Gray et al, 2010). While still critically endangered, an increase in population – particularly with ongoing conflict in the region – is a significant victory for the efforts of conservationists and the local communities.

The close proximity between human populations and endangered great apes is undoubtedly a factor in the threat to ape survival. However, fifty years of conservation efforts have demonstrated the importance of protecting apes with the cooperation and support of the populations that reside in proximity to ape habitat. Providing training and material support in sustainable agriculture helps to mitigate the need to log or hunt in critical ape habitat. Using ape conservation funds to provide basic health services such as clean water and medical clinics makes ape conservation beneficial to both the apes and humans in the area. Lastly, educational outreach can instill a sense of local pride in the majestic gorillas, and will hopefully bring about the next generation of conservationists sharing a common homeland with the apes, who will then strive to increase mountain gorilla populations to sustainable levels.

 

Works Cited:

International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). 2014. “Tourism.”

Whitely Fund for Nature, 2011. “Mountain Gorilla Conservation through Public Health, Uganda.”

Gray, M. Fawcett, K., Basabose, A., Cranfield, M., Vigilant, L., Roy, J., Uwingeli, P., Mburanumwe, I., Kagoda, E., Robbins, M. 2010. Virunga Massif Mountain Gorilla Census — 2010 Summary Report.

Happy Birthday, Jody Chimpanzee!

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Tracy Headley in honor of her beautiful Pal, Jody’s, honorary 39th birthday! We don’t know Jody’s actual date of birth so we chose Mother’s Day to celebrate her life, in honor of the 9 children she gave birth to, but was not allowed to raise. As heartbreaking as Jody’s history is, thanks to our amazing supporters, she seems to have fully embraced her life in sanctuary. She spends her days lounging in peace and comfort in the most amazingly cozy nests, foraging on Young’s Hill for as much as she can possibly carry, and increasingly so, playing and laughing with her chimpanzee family. Of Jody’s countless endearing qualities, a favorite that comes to mind today is how she always helps round everyone up at mealtime and makes sure they get through the door before we close it, seemingly making sure no one gets “left behind.”

While nothing could make up for the loss that Jody and all chimpanzee mommas and their children have endured, we honor and celebrate their lives today. We all give life in our own way and can mother at heart. Whether it’s to ourselves, our friends, our family, or the earth, regardless of species. As said by Anais Nin, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Tracy, you are an extraordinary friend to the chimpanzees and we are so grateful for all you do for them. Thank you so much for making Jody’s day of celebration even more special! Happy Birthday/Mother’s Day, Jody, we love you!!

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All of us at CSNW wish you all a day of love, comfort, and nurturing. Be sure to check back later today for the birthday/Mother’s Day celebration!

How Apps for Apes helps conservation

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

In his first post, Rich Zimmerman introduced us to the plight of free-living orangutans in Indonesia. Here he tells us how his program, Orangutan Outreach, has helped with some of the issues orangutans face and how Apps for Apes helps raise awareness for those efforts.

How has your work with Orangutan Outreach influenced conservation efforts in Indonesia?

Since its inception, Orangutan Outreach has been able to make a notable impact in the ongoing struggle to save the orangutans. Over the past few years we’ve been able to make substantial financial contributions to our strategic partners in the field, including Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS), IAR, Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) and SOCP. These funds go to rescuing, caring for, relocating, rehabilitating, and releasing individual orangutans back to the forest in Borneo and Sumatra. Working with our partners in the field, we’ve helped fund the rescue of individuals who, without our help, would otherwise have perished or been smuggled out of Indonesia by illegal animal traders. Our support has contributed immensely to the success of the BOS Nyaru Menteng orangutan releases. This release program is the first of its kind in history. BOS is literally re-creating a genetically stable population of orangutans in the wild and we are honored to be able to help them.

In addition to the work on the ground, Orangutan Outreach does a lot of online advocacy on behalf of the orangutans via our website, and our social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. We’ve been able to bring people together from all over and create hubs of support among our fans and followers.

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Rich helping to educate the public about the plight of orangutans. Photo © Orangutan Outreach.

Tell us a little bit about the Apps for Apes program and how this helps both captive and wild orangutans.

Apps for Apes was started a few years ago as a way to provide enrichment to orangutans in zoos and sanctuaries—and has now expanded to include chimpanzees! Apes are highly intelligent creatures who require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored and depressed. Every ape is a unique individual with his or her own particular likes and dislikes, and the quality of life of apes living in zoos and sanctuaries is highly dependent on the amount and type of enrichment they receive on a daily basis. With the Apps for Apes project, we are providing iPads to ape caregivers in order to provide them with unlimited enrichment opportunities. They have access to music, musical instruments, cognitive games, art, painting, drawing, photos and videos. I should also point out that we do not spend a penny on Apps for Apes. All iPads are donated. NatGeo gave us several dozen last year when they upgraded their field staff!

Apps for Apes has three goals: 1) to provide stimulating enrichment & immediate gratification for the apes using iPads, 2) to raise awareness among zoo visitors of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild, and 3) to promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach. For Apps for Apes to be truly successful we need to achieve ALL the goals. It’s wonderful to provide something fun for a captive ape, but we want to take it further. We want the iPad enrichment sessions to become ‘teachable moments’. Whether via live caregiver talks or stories on the news, we have a golden opportunity to get people to think about orangutans—to see them as amazing, intelligent beings who are being brutally killed in the wild—and to help them! That’s our larger goal of Apps for Apes—for the apes in captivity to truly become ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.

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Puppe and her son Budi at the Toronto Zoo with their keeper Matthew Berridge.  Photos © Tom Pandi for Orangutan Outreach.

What can we do at home to help with conservation efforts?

People should try their best to avoid products that contain palm oil—and spread the word to all their friends. While boycotting all products that contain palm oil is not feasible, one can always make choices in what they buy. Consumers have power. By letting companies know you won’t buy products that contribute to the destruction of orangutan habitat you are making a powerful statement! Hopefully soon—but only with outside pressure from environmental groups—there will be products that only contain palm oil that is certifiably sustainable and that has not led to the deteriorating population of orangutans. Until then, use extreme caution when shopping, and read those labels!

A really fun way for people to get involved with orangutan conservation is by adopting an orangutan on our website. The adoptions are virtual—the orangutans stay at the care center (Believe me… people ask!). Adopting an orangutan is a great way for someone to follow along as their adoptee grows up. Donations are critical to keep the projects going, but spreading awareness is also key. People can’t act if they don’t know what’s happening far away in Borneo and Sumatra. We need people to share our website with their friends, join us on Facebook and spread the word. We have lots of online materials for young people to use in school. We cannot save the orangutans alone—only together can we make a difference!

CSNW was fortunate enough to be included in the Apps for Apes program and very much appreciate the iPad we received. Since then, we also got one from Shari H. so now the chimpanzees have two iPads! Now one person can keep Jamie occupied and someone else can play with the other chimps—perfect! Here’s a video of the chimps with their iPads:

Losing your head

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As you might imagine, routine is very important for the chimpanzees, especially after spending decades in the uncertain environment of labs. We all feel a little better knowing what to expect from our environment and the other beings in it, especially when someone else might have certain control over a situation that we don’t. One example of the chimpanzees’ routine here at CSNW is how we invite them to move from one area to another so that we can clean their enclosures. After we clean the chimpanzees’ play room in the morning we scatter a treat for them to forage for when they are given access to the room again. The chimps know to expect this and as they see us nearing the end of cleaning they start getting excited and want to see what we’re are going to put out for them. This not only helps us encourage them to move to different areas, but also gives them something to look forward to as well as to encourage their natural foraging behavior. But it’s always the chimpanzees’ choice to leave an area or not and if someone wants to stay where they are, well then, we just wait it out until they are ready to leave the area.

Today we decided to give the chimps a special treat by putting out entire heads of lettuce. For whatever reason, the chimps get pretty excited over lettuce in general and of course, it’s extra exciting to be able to have a whole item to yourself as opposed to pieces (kind of like me and chocolate bars, for example).

Jamie, enjoying her lettuce and mildly tolerating the paparazzi:

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Despite it being an exciting forage item, the chimpanzees were all generous with one another and at some point, choosing to share their spoils with each other. In this photo, Jody had just asked Jamie for permission to have this lettuce and you can see her glancing to the side where Jamie is sitting out of frame:

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Unfortunately, the light wasn’t cooperating for pictures of Negra but I can tell you that she had so many heads of lettuce that she had to scoot across the floor on her bottom all the way back to her nest because her hands and feet were full! Here is Burrito cautiously reaching toward Negra’s stash which she kindly allowed him to do:

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Foxie finds some blueberries:

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Annie scooped up her lettuce and headed for the greenhouse. But her plan to avoid the crowd failed and she found herself the center of a lot of food peering. Foxie is in the background here:

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Foxie and Jody were very persistent in their attempts to convince Annie to share. But Annie was equally persistent in keeping her lettuce for herself. Even if she had to enjoy it in a rather awkward position (you can see Jody waiting patiently behind her):

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Annie was surrounded as Foxie continued to peer from above:

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Annie eventually did share her last bites with Jody and Foxie. It was probably all the “peer” pressure (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I didn’t catch any photos of Missy because she was smartly cornered away in the top of the playroom, out of sight. But in the end, everyone was able to enjoy some lettuce, whether they found their own, covertly took it from someone else, or found a friend in an altruistic mood.

Eyes on Apes website

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

One of our missions at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest is to advocate for apes everywhere, which is why we developed the program Eyes on Apes. The idea is to have one centralized area for people to learn about issues that apes face both in captivity and in the wild, while providing tools for you to take action.

There’s a lot of great information on the pages for each of the issues (entertainment, pets, roadside zoos, biomedical research, and free-living issues in Africa and Asia).

One thing we just added were some pages on individual trainers in the entertainment industry. This is a really nice resource for people to have when you hear about a chimp in a commercial or movie and are curious what it is like for them with their trainers. Each page lists facts about the trainers, any relevant USDA citations, and links to our action alerts about productions these trainers were involved in.

Please share this site with your friends, and help raise awareness for apes everywhere! You can ask them to sign up for our Take Action list in order to get action alerts and help make a difference for apes everywhere.

Take a look through all the pages—there’s been some makeovers throughout the site, like this informational map showing the current vs. historical population of African apes:

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And, since this was a little bit of a wordy post, I thought I’d throw in a picture of Negra from this morning’s breakfast forage on Young’s Hill:

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Is successful reintroduction possible?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

In her previous post, Dr. Gwendy Reyes-Illg introduced us to her work with the story of Margot. Here she talks about reintroductions from Afican sanctuaries back into the wild, and some information on how we can help. The sad reality is that many of these chimpanzees simply cannot be reintroduced to the wild because they have suffered too much trauma. No captive chimpanzee in the US has been successfully integrated into African forests—it is nothing like what they are used to. The same can be said for any chimpanzee who begins life in captivity, even if they live in Africa.

Have you witnessed apes experience successful reintroduction and rehabilitation?

Each chimpanzee is a unique individual, and their responses to trauma vary widely. Chimpanzees who were only in captivity for a short while before they were rescued are very different from those who were subjected to years of life as a “pet.” The former seem to have an easier time integrating with the other chimpanzees once in a sanctuary, while the latter are sometimes abnormally bonded to humans and may have a harder time finding their place in the group. Despite their gradual psychological recovery, they may still exhibit stereotypical behaviors, such as rocking or over-grooming.

Sanctuary life is much better than being in the hands of poachers or “owners.” Solitary confinement, the norm for most illegally-held primates, is one of the most miserable situations in which a social animal can find herself. In sanctuaries, primates have others of their own kind with whom to bond and interact. They are given a variety of healthy foods and fresh water. Oftentimes, they also form close relationships with caring staff members.

The sanctuaries I have volunteered for and visited in Africa differ greatly in the conditions in which the apes live. Some sanctuaries provide large tracts of forest where the apes can explore, play, build nests, etc. They are rarely seen during the day, coming near the cages only for feeding time. Other sanctuaries are much smaller, and caregivers must enrich the smaller area they have available to keep the primates stimulated and prevent boredom. Because most African sanctuaries rely on solar power for their electric fences, the apes must come inside at night so they will not escape when the power to the fence gets too low. Aggression can be a problem, especially in close inside quarters.

I have always been enamored with the idea of reintroducing chimpanzees to the wild. In theory, it seems to be one way to right all the wrongs our species has inflicted on these creatures. Reintroduction is liberation, emancipation. Unfortunately, the reality of chimpanzee reintroduction is much more muddled, both logistically and ethically.

The African sanctuaries I have worked closely with are still struggling to find a suitable release site—an area where reintroduced chimpanzees could find the resources they need to survive, without being killed by hunters, or by a well-established group of wild chimpanzees. This is a common challenge for sanctuaries hoping to reintroduce apes to the wild. In addition, apes who have been in captivity for any length of time may harbor infectious diseases that could endanger wild populations.

The actual “release” is just the beginning—not the end—of a life-long commitment to the animals: reintroduced apes must be fitted with tracking devices and constantly monitored for the rest of their lives. This is because they are inevitably habituated to people and areas uninhabited by people are almost impossible to find; to prevent human-ape conflict, crop-raiding, etc., releasers must ensure the reintroduced animals are not moving toward villages or farmland.

A fairly high percentage of chimpanzees die shortly after they are released, even with all the measures in place to prevent this. And after many years in a sanctuary environment, reintroduction may be a stress- and distress-causing event, at least initially, for the individuals involved. Finally, the financial costs of reintroduction project can be very high, and some might argue that limited resources would be better spent on individuals remaining in sanctuaries and on efforts to protect animals still in the wild, for example, by protecting forests or educating people.

Still, reintroduction may be the right option in certain situations. Successfully released apes have many options and freedoms not available to those in sanctuaries. They can roam where they choose, and are free to spend time with individuals they prefer and avoid those they don’t get along with. They do not have to depend on people for food, water, and other necessities. Chimpanzees reintroduced to the wild avoid the sometimes unpleasant husbandry and medical procedures that are an almost universal part of sanctuary chimpanzee life.

Another freedom that comes with reintroduction is the freedom to reproduce and raise offspring. Contraception is used in most sanctuaries because they do not wish to subject more animals to a life of captivity; in addition, every “vacancy” occupied by captive-born animal is not available for one who needs to be rescued. Once in the wild, reproduction not only enriches the lives of the mother and other group members, it also pulls the species a little further away from extinction in the wild—predicted by some to occur for chimpanzees in as little 15 years.

Finally, because reintroduction projects capture the hearts and imagination of many people, they can help draw attention of the plight of apes in general. Local people living in a proposed reintroduction site are “sensitized” to the idea of protecting the apes being released and this may have a ripple effect that gradually helps foster positive attitudes in the larger population.

What can we do to help?

Limited resources are one of the biggest challenges for sanctuaries, especially those in developing countries. People who want to help can donate equipment, supplies, time or money to help meet sanctuaries’ daily needs and help expand education and outreach programs. Many sanctuaries accept volunteers for extended periods, even individuals who have never worked with primates before. Since my work has a veterinary focus, I approach distributors, manufacturers, and practitioners in the hopes that they will donate medications, equipment (such as anesthesia monitors, ultrasound machines, and fracture repair instruments), and medical supplies to bring to the sanctuaries where I work.

In addition, it is important to examine how we might unintentionally be contributing to the tragedy of orphaned chimpanzees. When considering buying wood products, it may be worth looking into the source; logging companies seeking wood for Western markets contribute to the problem both by cutting roads into remote, formerly inaccessible areas of forest and by transporting illegal bushmeat out of the forest. In addition, they sometimes do not provide enough food to their workers, leading some individuals to resort to hunting primates and other wild species.

Finally, taking action on issues that harm primates in the U.S., such as medical research and use in the entertainment and pet industries, has a ripple effect for chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates still in their native regions. These campaigns always need supporters and even people with limited time to contribute can help raise the profile and the moral status of primates in our society.

These pictures were taken at three of the sanctuaries Gwendy has worked for: Limbe Wildlife Centre (in Cameroon), In Defense of Animals—Africa’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center (in Cameroon), and the Jane Goodall Institute South Africa (Chimp Eden).

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More ways to follow us

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

If you are on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a few pictures posted from our new Instagram account. If you have Instagram, please start following us @chimpsanctuary! Today, I posted this picture, with the caption “Guess who?” And I’d like to pose that question to our blog readers as well. So, go ahead and guess! After you figure it out, I will post more pictures of that chimp later today!

UPDATE: It’s Burrito :) Scroll down to see his pretty cute face.

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If you aren’t on Facebook or Instagram, but you regularly read the blog, you might have noticed on the right hand sidebar that there’s a new link to a page called News on Apes. This is simply a feed of news stories (with links to the original articles) all in one place for any issue apes are facing in the news. If something noteworthy comes out on chimps in entertainment or biomedical research, or conservation issues for wild gorillas, chimps, and orangutans—we will post it there. Subscribe to get an email notification any time we post a link to a new article, to stay updated on what is going on with apes around the world.

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Why are orangutans endangered in the wild?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

This guest blog is by Rich Zimmerman, Executive Director of Orangutan Outreach. Rich helped facilitate getting CSNW an iPad as part of their Apps for Apes program! He is our first guest blogger to tell us information about our red ape cousins in Asia. Rich’s experience is in helping raise awareness and funds for the projects in the field. He has accompanied a few rescue missions in Borneo but his work is mainly in New York and online—advocating on behalf of orangutans, promoting the cause and communicating the critical need to help them before it’s too late.

What inspired you to work with orangutans?

I’ve loved orangutans since I was a child. I went in a different direction professionally and it was only later in life—when I realized just how perilously close the orangutans were to extinction in the wild—that I decided I needed to do something to help them. After traveling to Indonesia and seeing the utter devastation to their forests and the rescue center cages full of hundreds of orphaned and displaced orangutans staring out with such sadness and desperation in their eyes, I decided to dedicate my life to helping them. I created Orangutan Outreach in 2007 as a way to raise awareness of the crisis facing wild orangutans and to raise funds for the rescue projects in Borneo and Sumatra.

Can you tell us a brief story about an individual orangutan that was personally affected by human encroachment?

Every orangutan in every rescue center has been affected by human encroachment. Whenever there is a conflict, the human always wins. Orangutans—and elephants, rhinos, tigers, monkey, you name it—always fall victim to the constant expansion of human settlement and the destruction of their habitat by logging, palm oil, and mining companies. Every baby in a rescue center was torn off his or her dying mother. These innocent babies are traumatized—just as any human baby would be if pulled from its mother. And for each infant confiscated and brought to a rehabilitation center, it’s estimated that anywhere from four to nine did not survive. It’s horrific what is being done to these creatures… for no fault of their own they are being wiped out of existence by humans.

Let me tell you two quick stories. The first is Rickina, who was rescued by our partners International Animal Rescue (IAR) when she was less than a year old. When they confiscated her she has a gaping machete wound in her skull—obviously received when the poachers killer her mother. The wound was fresh. Rickina is now doing really well—thanks to the expert care of the team at IAR Ketapang. She is quite famous online—with more than 350,000 views of her video on YouTube.

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Baby Orangutan Rickina is being cared for at IAR Ketapang (and can be adopted!). Photo © International Animal Rescue.

Another amazing story is Gober, a blind, older female orangutan being cared for by our partners Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). When she was caught eating fruit in the garden of a local villager she was going to be killed. Instead she was rescued and brought to the SOCP quarantine center. She had cataracts and could barely see. She was housed in a cage next to a younger male orangutan (named Leuser) who had been shot with a pellet gun more than a hundred times by local villagers. He was totally blind and the fact that he’d even survived is testament to the phenomenal will to live of orangutans. Well, orangutans never cease to amaze… nine months later Gober gave birth to beautiful twins, Ganteng and Ginting. Twins are extremely rare among orangutans—which makes sense given the fact that in the wild they spend their lives high up in the treetops. Imagine trying to move around in the canopy carrying two babies! Gober had successful cataract surgery and her sight has been partially restored. Hopefully she and the twins will be released back into the wild later this year!

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Gober & the Twins are being cared for by SOCP (and can be adopted!) Photo © Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

Why are orangutans endangered in the wild?

The expansionary activities of the timber, mining and palm oil industries have led to a catastrophic decrease in wild orangutan populations. Palm oil has been the main contributor to the orangutan genocide in the last decade. Around 90% of the global supply of palm oil comes from Indonesia & Malaysia and this has come at a tremendous cost for biodiversity. Indonesian forests are being burned to the ground—releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks only behind China and US in carbon emissions—and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of six football fields per minute, every minute of every day.

The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest at an alarming rate.

When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are killed on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings who share approximately 97% of our DNA are shot, macheted, beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are literally torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again.

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Surveying deforestation in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Photo © Orangutan Outreach

Have you seen any recovery of wild orphaned orangutans (e.g. is reintroduction possible)?

Reintroduction is very possible! Over the last year and a half, our partners at BOS have released more than 100 rehabilitated orangutans into a safe and secure forest deep in the heart of Borneo—far away from bulldozers and oil palm companies. And the population is flourishing! While there has been one death reported there have been multiple births recorded by the post-release monitoring team. The cycle of life continues in the forest for the world’s first re-created orangutan population. It takes roughly 250-300 individuals to create a stable population so there are many releases to go before the forest has reached carrying capacity according to strict IUCN guidelines. What BOS needs now is to find more forests to release more orangutans. There are still around 600 orangutans being cared for at the Nyaru Menteng Facility. They also have orangutans in East Kalimantan who are gradually being released into a separate forest. IAR is doing the same in West Kalimantan. They’ve been able to release orangutans from their excellent new facility in Ketapang. SOCP has a successful release program in Northern Sumatra. All these projects and programs are ongoing—and are only possible due to the generosity of donors.

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BOS Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Release Photo © Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.