Threats to Great Apes


Surrounded by the highest rural population density in all sub-Saharan Africa, eastern (mountain) gorillas face pressures from a reduction of suitable gorilla habitat, conflicts with humans, as well as from injuries sustained from snares set for other animals in the forest. Artisanal mining of conflict minerals, and related bushmeat hunting—meat from wild mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds—are major threats to eastern (Grauer’s) gorillas and their habitats. Poaching for bushmeat, the Ebola virus, and habitat loss, mostly from illegal logging, top the list of threats for western lowland gorillas.

Eastern (mountain) population:  1,063
Eastern (Grauer’s) population:  3,800; 80% loss in one generation
Western lowland population:  300,000; annual loss of 2.7%


The commercial trade in bushmeat is a major threat to the survival of chimpanzees. Intense and repeated logging, oil extraction and the mining of surface minerals devastate local ecosystems and degrades the habitat of chimpanzees, who rely on specific trees for fruit and to harbour their nests.

Population in 1900:  2,000,000
Population in 1960:  1,000,000
Population today:  170,000 to 300,000


Palm oil is the single greatest threat to the survival of orangutans. In the 1960s, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments decided that palm oil production would be a large part of their economic strategy. The palm oil industry’s slash and burn clearing was responsible for at least 39 percent of forest loss—fifteen million acres—on Borneo between 2000 and 2018. As a result of exploitation of natural resources, it’s estimated as many as 100,000 Bornean orangutans have been lost between 1999 and 2015.

Sumatran population:  13,800
Tapanuli population:  800
Bornean population:  35,000 to 45,000
Estimated total population:  14% of the orangutan population in 1900


Hunting is the single biggest threat to bonobos, with habitat loss a close second. Bonobo numbers plummeted during the First and Second Congo Wars (1996-2003), when heavily armed militias and displaced Congolese in the forest—including within protected reserves—were seeking food, firewood, and shelter.

Population:  10,000 to 20,000

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