The world has many types of great apes, and most are endangered: from gorillas to orangutans to bonobos – mostly due to habitat loss. We also have apes suffer in zoos and circuses, and also in vivisection labs. And then we have issues with the illegal pet trade. Poaching is a huge issue in Africa. With civil war and lack of food, people kill apes for food, or to sell for the pet trade, often killing the parents. Poaching patrols literally risk their lives daily, to keep apes safe.
Let’s Meet the Apes
Meet Bertie who scares away the poachers!
- Chimpanzees are small and social apes, though they can fight and hunt. They swing from trees and share 98% of our DNA (compared to 97% for most species). They can catch our diseases, which is why alas they are often used in vivisection. Yet no success has ever been made HIV, showing that humane research is better for both science and ethics. Londoner Jane Goodall is the world’s expert on chimps, and was the first to find they could use grass blades to extract termites from the ground, and use stones to crack open nuts.
- Gorillas live in small groups, with silverbacks twice as big as females. These shy creatures live in African swamps, forests and mountains and are mostly herbivores, though some may eat insects. Two good charities are Gorilla Doctors (free vet treatment to wild gorillas in natural habitats and ‘surrogate mums’ who care 24/7 for orphans) and The Gorilla Organization (their rangers remove snares and patrol war-torn areas to keep apes safe). Just over 1000 mountain gorillas are left, many died from Ebola Virus
- Orangutans are native to Borneo and Indonesia, their name means ‘old man of the forest’. These solitary creatures live in trees, building umbrellas from leaves when it rains. Palm oil (for junk food) is the main threat. They like to eat fruit, leaves and termites. One of their favourite meals is durian, a stinky fruit that is loved by some human raw foodists.
- Bonobos are not so well known, but perhaps our closest relatives. Their society is run by females and they can self-medicate with leaves. Again they are at risk from hunting due to war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and often killed for bushmeat or in snares.
- Baboons are the largest monkeys, living in East Africa. These social apes have long teeth (as strong as lions) and a similar routine to use (wake around 7am, then forage, eat, rest, groom and sleep).
- Macaques are not apes (they have no tails) but Japanese macaques (below video) have hairless faces and look quite like humans. They like to sit in hot springs in the cold mountains, where they play with snowballs. Apart from humans and racoons, they are the only species to wash food, before eating it. Barbary macaques are famed for stealing off tourists, on the island of Gibraltar.
Ensure Coconut Milk is Monkey-Friendly
Although not local, coconut milk is now very popular. So ensure the brand you choose is monkey-friendly, as some send terrified ‘slave monkeys’ high up into the coconut trees. They live their lives tethered (and don’t even get to enjoy any of the tasty coconut, that they retrieve).
Due to a recent media outcry, supermarkets say their own brands no longer use such methods. This sounds a bit ‘greenwash’, suggesting that they may still sell some brands that do. Biona Organic Coconut Milk does not use monkey harvesting, also in a light version.
Tips to Save Great Apes
Annalise Draws for Greenpeace
- Live simply. All apes are at risk from loss of habitat, climate change etc.
- Give up palm oil. This helps orangutans and other endangered species.
- Only give to humane research. Kind and more effective. Join the campaign at Project R & R for Wenka (50 years and counting) and other older chimps in labs to go to a sanctuary. Boycott airlines that transport kidnapped wildlife to use in labs (Air France is one).
- Don’t have photos taken with wild animals (monkeys are ripped from mothers at young ages).
- Never buy souvenirs that look dodgy (some ashtrays are made from gorilla paws).
- Never visit zoos or circuses with animals. Report abuse/concerns to local animal charities (give details and photos if possible). Tell the police, tour operator, Freedom for Animals & Born Free.
- Buy carbon offsets at Explorers Against Extinction. This funds protection of endangered species.
If we kill the wild, we are killing part of our souls. Jane Goodall
Companies that Help the Apes
Organik Orangutan makes bars of vegan soap without palm oil, and profits help orangutans. This company also offers a dog shampoo (avoid essential oils for allergies, sensitive skin and never use them on cats). See how to naturally give your dog a bath.
- PureChimp sells qood matcha tea and palm-oil free beauty items, all in zero waste packaging. They donate 5% of profits to Save the Chimps, a charity that rescues apes from zoos, circuses and vivisection.
- See clothing to help animals. Many of these companies offer organic cotton t-shirts and hoodies, with profits helping charities to protect animals worldwide.
- Many mobile phones use coltan to store electricity, which is mined from gorilla habitats. Recycle phones through FairPhone, and buy refurbished ones at GiffGaff (12-month warranty, next day delivery).
- That Gorilla Brand (Greece) sells organic cotton clothing for men, women and children. Profits help gorillas.
- Gorilla Spirits Co (Hampshire) gives £1 from each bottle to gorilla conservation. Silverback Mountain Strength Gin is made with 7 botanicals: beat your chest and sip it down!
Primates as Pets
All welfare experts say that primates are too complicated to have as pets, as they are wild animals that need good knowledge of diet, vet care, social opportunity and space. The UK has around 5000 privately owned pet primates, and Freedom for Animals have recently successfully campaigned to change the law, so that keeping primates as pets will be illegal.
Wild animals are now banned from performing in UK circuses, but not abroad. A similar ban has also come into effect in Wales. However many monkeys and apes still are bored out of their brains in zoos.
England’s Monkey Sanctuaries
England has a few monkey sanctuaries. Be careful as although many do great work, a few zoos pass themselves off as sanctuaries. Monkey sanctuaries should only rescue primates from conditions abroad (never breed to make money) and have enclosures akin to the wild (as much as you can, away from Africa).
- Wild Futures (Cornwall) guarantees a home for life of monkeys that rescued from abroad. Their expert team have the skills to have them form bonds with other monkeys, and a high carer-to-monkey ratio to ensure all needs are met. All 50 rescued in the last 20 years have showed stereotypical behaviour.
- Monkey Haven (Isle of Wight) have also rescued lots of monkeys, including one found wrapped in a bag at Malta airport, bound in cloth and tape. Another was found living in a tiny parrot cage. This organisation goes out of its way to live a greener life. They use eco timber and use recycled tyres for soft play areas. Fresh fruit and veg are grown locally and they avoid palm oil in cleaning products.
- Monkey World (Dorset) is the one featured on TV, set up by Jim and Alison Cronin (he died within weeks of being diagnosed with cancer a few years back, with his widow now carrying the baton). Set in 65 acres, they rescue abused chimps from across the world and don’t allow breeding, so there is always space for more rescues. It works to stop smuggling of wild gibbons and orangutans and conducts undercover surveys of the illegal pet trade. Its own primate hospital provides expertise worldwide