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.
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.
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.
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.
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.