Great Apes

Great apes are in decline worldwide. The WCS landscapes contain 18 of the 23 species of apes. Since 2014, whilst a new species of orangutan has been described, three ape species have gone from Endangered to Critically Endangered. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans are close evolutionary relatives and therefore vulnerable to more than 140 of the same diseases. 

As the numbers of researchers, eco-tourists, local people, and soldiers increase in and around the lowland forests of central Africa, the likelihood of viruses, parasites, and other pathogens passing between them and great apes rises. Research suggests that tens of thousands of great apes have already perished from Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus, which is also deadly to humans. The WCS Health Programs are at the forefront of investigations into the diagnosis, management and prevention of such diseases.

The Congo Basin is vital habitat for more than 100,000 western lowland gorillas and more than 80 percent of Earth’s wild chimpanzees. Since 1999, WCS has been the only organization systematically collecting comprehensive health data on these populations. In addition, our wildlife veterinarians are on the front lines developing preventative measures and educating park rangers, communities and field researchers to ensure that wild apes survive in Africa’s forests for generations to come. 

WATCH:  Novel Method Developed to Detect Ebola Virus in Wildlife


Gorilla banner photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher, WCS

Gorilla sampling inset photo credit: Alain Ondzie, WCS Congo

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