Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Great Apes

Taxonomically, great apes fall within the Primate Order and the Hominidae Family.  Great apes consist of the gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and orangutan. Today all great apes are highly threatened by hunting, habitat loss and deforestation and disease.

All great apes are characterised by low population densities and reproductive rates as well as a period of long infant dependency.  A female chimpanzee will only reproduce on average one infant every five years and not all of these offspring will survive to adulthood. This makes them extremely vulnerable to hunting. Additionally, because adult females are often carrying young infants which are too small to kill for food, they are captured and sold into the domestic and even international pet trades.


Mountain gorilla © Ian Redmond
Mountain gorilla © Ian Redmond

There are two subspecies of western gorilla: the western lowland gorilla Gorilla gorilla gorilla and the Cross River gorilla G. g. diehli; and two subspecies of eastern gorilla: the mountain gorilla G. beringei beringei, and the eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla G. b. graueri.

Both western gorilla subspecies and the mountain gorilla are now Critically Endangered. The eastern lowland gorilla and all chimpanzee subspecies are Endangered (IUCN 2013). All these species are listed on CITES Appendix 1.


© Ian Redmond
© Ian Redmond

In sub-Saharan Africa there are four subspecies of chimpanzee: the eastern chimpanzee Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, the central chimpanzee P. t. troglodytes, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee P. t. ellioti, and the western chimpanzee P. t. verus.


Bonobos © Ian Redmond
© Ian Redmond

Only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is one species of bonobo, Pan paniscus.


Sumatran orangutan © Ian Redmond
Sumatran orangutan © Ian Redmond

There are two species of orangutans: the Bornean orangutan Pongo pygmaeus and the Sumatran orangutan Pongo abelii.

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