Fragile Forest and Jungle of the Apes provide safe habitats for our chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas. But we are also helping apes in the wild.

Chimpanzees

At one time, more than one million Chimpanzees lived in Africa. Today, perhaps only 150,000 survive, and they continue to be lost at an alarming rate. The bushmeat trade (illegally sold meat from wild animals) has left hundreds of orphaned chimpanzees -- cute babies who generate more profit in the pet trade than the meat market. The "lucky" ones are rescued and placed in sanctuaries where caretakers try to rehabilitate these traumatized young apes. Smart, fiesty, self-confident or insecure, chimpanzees with different personalities will be formed into families. Some may be reintroduced to the wild, a not-so-safe world in which they will need to learn how to survive without the benefit of moms teaching them the way. For one thing, they're losing their habitat. It's being destroyed to make farmland, to provide trees for the lumber industry, and to build roads. Another problem is that chimps are captured for the pet trade. It's estimated that for every baby chimp taken as a pet, ten other chimps are killed -- the mother and several relatives who die to protect the baby. Yet another problem is the Ebola virus, which is killing huge numbers of chimps. Fragile lives entering fragile forests. We changed the lives of our chimpanzees; together we can do the same for their wild cousins.

Conservation groups including the Saint Louis Zoo are working to solve the bushmeat crisis before it's too late. To learn more about what's being done to help chimps and other bushmeat victims, read about the work of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (external site).

What can you do to help chimpanzees?

  • You can help protect their habitat. Make sure that you, your family, and friends choose wisely when buying wood products. Don't buy items made from trees that were logged from chimps' habitat.
  • Also, tell everyone you know to recycle their cell phones. Cell phones contain the mineral coltan, which can only be mined by destroying chimps' habitat. Cell phones can be donated at the Saint Louis Zoo. Please drop them off at a Welcome Desk at the North and South Entrance, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, or mailed to Saint Louis Zoo, One Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110. Your actions can make a difference!
  • Adopt a chimpanzee from the Saint Louis Zoo! Your donation helps us provide the best care to our chimpanzees.

Orangutans

About 10,000 years ago, Sumatran Orangutans were found throughout Southeast Asia, even in southern China. Scientists estimate there were probably hundreds of thousands of orangutans. Today, however, only 10-25,000 still survive in the tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

Wild Sumatran orangutans have been in dire trouble for some time (as have their Bornean cousins). The primary reasons are habitat loss and degradation from logging, forest fires, and timber clearing for farming (including palm oil plantations) and human settlements.Orangutans are also hunted and killed for their meat (bushmeat), and young apes are captured for sale in the illegal pet trade.

Although orangutans are protected by law in Indonesia and Malaysia, enforcement is spotty. The animals aren’t even safe in national parks, where illegal logging is rampant. Most Sumatran orangutans, for example, live in Gunung Leuser National Park. By 2000, their numbers there totaled about 6,000 animals. But scientists believe they are falling at 1,000 per year.

Though the situation is dire, there are organizations and individuals in many countries trying to reverse their severe decline. They are working to stop illegal logging, to increase sustainable economic alternatives for communities surrounding orangutan habitat, helping instill national pride in orangutans and their environment, and rehabilitating ex-captive orangutans into protected habitat.

North American zoos, including the Saint Louis Zoo, are working together ensure the future of captive orangutans (see story at right). They are also working for the conservation of wild orangutans; for more information, click on www.apetag.org.

What can you do to help orangutans?

  • You can tell everyone you know to recycle their cell phones. Cell phones can be donated at the Saint Louis Zoo. Please drop them off at a Welcome Desk at the North and South Entrance, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, or mailed to Saint Louis Zoo, One Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110. Your actions can make a difference!
  • Adopt an orangutan from the Saint Louis Zoo! Your donation helps us provide the best care to our orangutans.
  • You can donate money to conservation organizations working to help orangutans or to save their habitat.
  • You can also help in the effort to protect orangutan habitat by choosing wisely when you shop for certain products.
  • Avoid buying wood or wood products that originate in fragile tropical forest areas:
    • Ramin is one of the most frequently logged types of wood from Borneo – used to make broom and brush handles and other common consumer items. To avoid ramin, instead choose items with plastic or metal handles.
    • Teak, ironwood, ebony and sandalwood are all logged in Indonesia. Avoid these.
    • The unsustainable harvest of lauan, a tropical plywood, is taking a huge toll on tropical forest habitat in Asia and the South Pacific. Make sure any plywood you buy (including plywood used in flooring and furniture construction) is harvested sustainably. Certain retailers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot are taking steps to discontinue sale of lumber products from environmentally sensitive areas. Ask your retailer where your wood products come from.
    • The production of rayon, made from wood pulp, is a huge consumer of rainforest resources. Avoid buying clothes made with rayon viscose.
    • Palm oil plantations have been responsible for the clearing of hundreds of thousands of orangutan habitat. Avoid foods that contain palm oil, palm kernel, palmitate or any derivative with the word “palm”.

Gorillas

All types of Western Lowland Gorillas are in serious danger of extinction in the wild. Western gorillas number only about 110,000 – most of them the western lowland subspecies, plus a few hundred of the other western subspecies, the Cross River gorilla. Eastern gorillas are even more rare: one subspecies, the eastern lowland gorilla, numbers only about 10,000, while the mountain gorilla subspecies numbers just a few hundred. That means there are fewer than 125,000 wild gorillas total.

What’s happening to gorillas? Logging is the root the problem. First of all and most obviously, logging destroys gorillas’ habitat (as does the expansion of agriculture and human settlements). But logging leads to other problems as well. Loggers build roads that provide an easy route for the spread of lethal diseases like Ebola. Roads also make it easy for hunters to come into the forest and poach gorillas and other animals. While some gorillas continue to be hunted for body parts (to make gorilla-hand ashtrays, for instance), more and more gorillas are being killed for food. This bushmeat trade, as it’s called, affects other animals as well (including chimpanzees and orangutans). These animals are being killed for their meat at a rate faster than they can reproduce. In some cases, hunters are poor people who need the protein to survive. But more and more, the carcasses are being sold to cities, where bushmeat is bought as a “gourmet” food.

Conservation groups are working to solve the bushmeat crisis before it’s too late for gorillas and other endangered animals. To learn more about what’s being done to help gorillas and other bushmeat victims, learn about the work of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force .

What can you do to help gorillas?

  • You can help protect their habitat. Make sure that you, your family, and friends choose wisely when buying wood products. Don't buy items made from trees that were logged from gorillas' habitat.
  • Also, tell everyone you know to recycle their cell phones. Cell phones can be donated at the Saint Louis Zoo. Please drop them off at a Welcome Desk at the North and South Entrance, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, or mailed to Saint Louis Zoo, One Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110. Your actions can make a difference!
  • Adopt a gorilla from the Saint Louis Zoo! Your donation helps us provide the best care to our gorillas.