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Rewilding Our Closest Relatives

Of all of the wild animals we share our only home with, humans often feel a profound emotional connection with the great apes—gorillas, chimpanzees  and orangutans—but also with the more than 500 gibbons, monkeys and prosimians of the tropical forests and savannas of South America, Africa, Madagascar and Asia.

And for good reason! They are primates, like us, and our closest living biological relatives in the animal kingdom. They have large and highly developed brains and historically have been the focus of intense public interest, promoted by outstanding advocates like Dian Foessey and Gorillas in the Mist, and Jane Goodall and her famous research on chimpanzees at Gombe in Tanzania.

(Photo by: Virunga National Park)

Primates also play critical roles in the tropical ecosystems where they live. They disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat, essentially regenerating tropical forests that not only give primates shelter, but also, importantly in this age of climate change, sequester carbon. They are both prey and predator, helping keep a delicate food web in check. Primates are also significant in local and regional traditional knowledge, folklore and history. 

More than 60% of primates—the lemurs, lorises, bushbabies, tarsiers, monkeys and apes—are threatened with extinction and 75% have declining populations. They face a number of threats as a result of unsustainable human activities including poaching for the wildlife trade, and destruction of their habitat for agriculture and infrastructure development. 

"Dancing" Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi), Berenty, Madagascar, Swanson Madagascar Sojourn, October, 2004

The Re:wild Solution

Whether we are supporting the conservation of lemurs in Madagascar,  Northern Muriqui Monkeys in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, orangutans in Indonesia or red colobus monkeys across Africa, we are committed to protecting and restoring primate populations. Not only does this benefit the primates and all of the species that share their ecosystems, but it benefits humans, who depend on the health of tropical ecosystems for a healthy planet.

Re:wild and our partners help lead primate conservation globally. We house the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group, comprising more than 700 volunteer primate experts, with special sections dedicated to the conservation of gibbons and great apes, and for dealing with primate-human interactions and conflicts in the wild. As part of our partnership with the IUCN, we work at the interface of large extractive industries, including energy and infrastructure projects and their effects on great apes through the IUCN SSC Avoidance, Reducation, Restoration and Compensation (ARRC) Task Force.

Photo by: Pablo Fernicola

In addition to supporting primate conservation projects worldwide, we find new fundraising mechanisms for primate conservation and help create new programs. We work with local partners in the tropical forests that are most critical to primate survival and tailor our conservation actions accordingly: Amazonia, Mesoamerica, Madagascar, Suriname, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

We also help to facilitate and support assessments of primates for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which underpins the conservation strategies implemented for each individual species. This includes leading the publication of a biannual report—Primates in Peril—outlining the 25 primate species in most need of urgent conservation intervention. To meet our goal of documenting the full range of the diversity of primates in collaboration with primate researchers around the world, we publish the in-house journal Primate Conservation.

Golden Lion Tamarin (Photo by Russ Mittermeier, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Primate conservation is not limited to biologists and other conservationists! Re:wild and our partners also focus on promoting primate watching and ecotourism as a critical source of funding for local conservation, and as a way for local communities to value their forests and protect them as a source of income. We also put out calls for help to bring international attention to site-specific threats to primates with the aim of persuading national governments to protect endangered primates and other wildlife in their habitats. 

Wild Facts

  • There are more than 500 known species of primates, making them one of the most species-rich groups of mammals.

  • Primates live in the Neotropics, mainland Africa, Madagascar and Asia.

  • The smallest primate weighs less than 0.1 lbs while the largest weighs 440 lbs.

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There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our primates conservation approaches include any combination of the following solutions:

Science-based Decision-making

Conducting scientific research, synthesizing data and using that information to prioritize our conservation efforts and enable a deeper understanding of global biodiversity, its status and how best to conserve it.

Protected Area Creation

We identify and prioritize wild places in need of increased protection and work to establish new conservation areas through our local partners.

protected area management

We work to improve management of protected and conserved areas to ensure a safe and equitable future for biodiversity and local communities.

Wildlife crime prevention

Developing community-led and owned prevention strategies that take into account the societal and cultural drivers of wildlife crime, and implementing systems and technology to stop poachers before a crime is even committed.

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Partnering with Indigenous Peoples

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge, practices and values to support Indigenous peoples in protecting and managing their lands and natural resources.

Cultivating Conservation Leaders

Partnering with the next generation, passionate leaders, communities and organizations all over the world to ensure they have the enabling conditions, resources and expertise they need to most effectively protect and manage wildlife and wildlands.

Advocating for Earth

Building a team of engaged global citizens by inspiring changes in daily habits and promoting individual and collective actions that drive real and lasting change. We harness our platforms and reach to generate international attention around imminent threats to wildlife and wildlands and the communities who rely on them, usually from extractive industries, to positively influence decision-makers and other stakeholders.

action funds

Re:wild’s funds are designed to address gaps in financing, kickstart careers, and leverage impact — to provide resources of all sizes to where they are most needed. As host to over 15 different funds, our goal is to enable the conservation community to protect and restore the wild in the most powerful ways possible.

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