Apes are our closest wild relatives, but we are pushing them to the brink. Today, they 're among the most endangered groups anywhere. WCS continues to help lead the fight to save them.


In both Africa and Asia, apes' habitats are being destroyed. They are also hunted, the vast majority for meat but also to supply the pet trade. In Africa, the Ebola virus is another deadly threat, which has devastated several populations.

Our Goal

For all species, the long-term objective is to stabilize existing populations and, where necessary, support their recovery to sustainable levels.

We are employing a number of strategies to achieve this:

Why WCS?

18 of 22 species

WCS is leading the effort to stabilize existing populations, working directly to conserve 18 of 22 ape species, including all four subspecies of gorilla and three of four chimpanzee subspecies. We are active in much of the north of the Republic of Congo, where perhaps half of all wild gorillas live in less than 10% of their total range.

1959 study

In 1959, WCS Senior Conservationist George Schaller became the first person to study mountain gorillas in the wild, conducting seminal studies in Africa’s Albertine Rift. In the process, he changed our collective impression of gorillas forever—from fearsome, savage beasts to “gentle giants.”

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On Our Strategies

Prevent Hunting

All ape species are legally protected from hunting in their own countries and fully protected against international commercial trade under CITES (the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). We work with partners to enforce the laws through the training of rangers, the use of intelligence networks, the development of new tools to better monitor and improve patrols, and more.

Orangutans in Sarawak

The WCS Malaysia Program has done extensive work with communities in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. Many local people there rely on the nearby forest and rivers for their livelihoods. We work to renew a sense of ownership and appreciation for orangutans and their habitats through community outreach, including school programs and an original radio series.

Protect Key Habitat

We strive to ensure that key areas are legally designated as protected areas, and then help to prevent encroachments into those areas. Where such areas are threatened by oil, mineral, agricultural or timber exploitation, WCS liaises with governments and resource extraction companies to ensure that the protected area designation is respected.

Cross River Gorillas

The Cross River gorilla, a subspecies of the Western gorilla, is the most endangered African ape, so depleted it was long feared extinct and then rediscovered in the 1980s. In 2008, together with the government of Cameroon and other partners, WCS helped create Takamanda National Park, which safeguards about 20% of the remaining Cross River gorilla population.

Conduct Long-Term Research on Ebola

How is the disease is transmitted between apes? Which other species are the main reservoirs of it? In addition to such critical research, WCS conducts community programs that educate local people about Ebola, including the dangers of eating bushmeat that might be infected.

A Game-Changer on Ebola?

Just like humans, apes that survive a viral infection like Ebola develop antibodies. Usually, the only way to test for them is in their blood. But in 2014, WCS announced the development of a technique to identify those antibodies in the animals' feces. This meant that the information-gathering process was hugely simplified—taking blood samples from wild apes is challenging. Researchers can now identify regions where the virus has emerged in wildlife and which ape populations are most susceptible.

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