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Giving Day for Apes

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Sanctuaries and rescue centres around the world devote their time, knowledge and effort into rescuing, rehabilitating, and in some cases, releasing species of ape. Our closest living relatives face a wide variety of threats in their natural habitat and without the devotion of sanctuaries many face extinction. Hosted by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and sponsored by arcus Foundation and American Anti-Vivisection (AAVS), Giving Day for Apes is 24-hour fundraising event for qualified sanctuaries and rescue centres in Africa, Asia and North America to help raise funds to care for great apes and gibbons in need. The weeks leading up to this day are also crucial to raise awareness about the conservation work of bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutan and gibbons. 

Sanctuaries, through social media platforms, raise awareness and donations from their supporters for the work they do for apes. On the day of the event, sanctuaries will compete for the most donations leading up to the event day and are entered into a list of categories. Sanctuaries will then compete in these categories for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Each place has a further fixed donation attached where the sponsors themselves will donate prize money directly to the sanctuary in question. 

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Catergories from the leaderboard for Giving Day for Apes in 2018 

So, why is this event so important for great and small apes? 

Since the first year of this event in 2014, Giving Day for Apes has raised awareness for ape conservation and has aided the continual  battle ape sanctuaries face each day to rescue ape species from extinction. This event also helps sanctuaries and rescue centres to build relationships with donors and ultimately allows the ape conservation ball to keep rolling. In the last six years Giving Day for Apes and its participants have raised more than $2 million for ape organisations. 

Let's Meet the Apes!

The Great Apes.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus)


Bonobos are probably the least known of the great ape clan. Also known as the pygmy chimpanzee, the bonobo was thought to be a subspecies of the chimpanzee up until 1933 when it was classified as separate species all together. Resembling a goofy cousin of the chimpanzee, the bonobo is smaller than the chimpanzee with a more slender figure and longer limbs. Bonobos also have a far rounder face shape with less protruding facial features. Like the chimpanzee, the bonobo can be found in Africa. Populations have only been found in lowland rainforests along the south bank of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A unique behavioural trait of the bonobo is their social grouping. Bonobo females and their young make up the core of the group with males following the lead of mature females.



Bonobos are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List and are at a high risk of extinction in the future. Threats impacting bonobos today include poaching, civil unrest, habitat degradation and lack of information about the species. Bushmeat hunting is the number one threat to this small sized great ape. Bonobos are hunted illegally for bushmeat, traded commercially and sold on black markets for profit and consumed by local human populations. In many regions the human population can only afford to eat one meal a day and many are increasingly turning to wild sources for meat, which includes the bonobo. Techniques used in subsistence agriculture permanently destroys the bonobos home causing habitat degradation and making it uninhabitable. Illegal and legal logging also continues to destroy the bonobo’s habitats. The construction of logging roads creates access points for hunters to enter areas inhabited by bonobos which were previously inaccessibly. Finally, knowledge about this species of great ape is minimal. Knowledge about a species provides conservationists information about what a species needs to survive, if we do not know this it can sometimes be hard to help.

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Orangutan (Pongo. spp)


Found in the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia, the orangutan is a majestic, beloved species of great ape. Consisting of three species (Bornean, Pongo pygmaeus; Sumatran, Pongo abelii: and Tapanuli, Pongo rapanuliensis) and three sub species within Bornean orangutan species, the orangutan are one of our closest living relative, sharing up to 97% of the same DNA as us. Orangutan means “person of the forest”, and all species can be found high up the in the dense rainforest canopy. Males and females are sexually dimorphic meaning they possess different physical features. They differ in size as well as differences in facial features. Males can be recognised for their large cheek pads, or flanges used to attract females. The orangutan is the only great ape to live primarily (up to 80% of their time) up in the trees and is also the largest mammal to do so. The bond between mother and offspring is strong within orangutan species. Young orangutans will nurse from their mothers until they are about 6 years old, males may stick around for a further few years, however, females may stay until they reach their teens. This relationship is needed in order to build up specific skills for survival in the wild.



Orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years. Illegal logging and clearing forests for palm oil plantations are two key reasons. However, local farming also threatens orangutan homes. Fires caused by ‘slash and burn’ methods to plant palm oil plantations and make way for farms is also huge threat. Habitat is destroyed at a large scale to make way for palm oil plantations for western consumption. Palm oil is a globally traded agricultural commodity that is used in 50 percent of all consumer goods. Some products include, make up, biscuits and biofuel. Orangutans are hunted for food by local populations. Some humans are unaware of the laws protecting orangutans, whereas others simply disregard the law due to hunger and/or poverty. Due to habitat loss orangutans may also forage in human farms and gardens causing conflict between humans and orangutans. When adult females are killed, baby orangutans are sold into the pet trade.

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Gorilla (Gorilla. spp)


Separated by the Congo river, the genus Gorilla is divided into two species and four subspecies. The Western gorilla (G. gorilla) species has two subspecies, the Western lowland gorilla (G. g. gorilla) and the Cross-river gorilla (G. g. diehli). The Eastern gorilla (G. beringei) species also consists of two subspecies, the Mountain gorilla (G. b. beringei) and the Eastern lowland gorilla (G. b. graueri). The gorilla is a flagship species for Africa and many charities including WWF. This means as a species their survival is thoroughly discussed among conservationists and they are considered to be ‘charismatic’ in western cultures. The most charismatic feature of the gorilla can be seen in a fully-grown dominant male, or silver back. When males hit maturity at around 11-13 years they leave their birth group searching for their own family, attracting emigrating females from other groups. Male gorillas may also compete with older silver backs to gain power over his troop. Like all apes’ gorillas are highly intelligent. One captive gorilla in the 1970’s, Koko was taught a small amount of sign language as a communicational experiment and observations have been made by researchers of extensive tool use in the wild. 

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Poaching and hunting is still to this day the gorilla’s biggest threat. Although hunting, trading and consumption of gorillas is illegal in all Congo Basin countries, poaching still persists due to the lack of reinforcement and political issues. Apes are killed for the continue demand of meat consumption in urban centres where the consumption of ape’s meat is seen as a prestigious activity amongst wealthy communities. The demand for traditional medicine is also still present today with body parts from gorillas being sold for medicine and magical charms. Living in large groups, the attempt to poach just one individual usually means the entire group is murdered. Adults are generally killed, sold and consumed and infants are sold into the pet trade. Like many ape’s, habitat loss also poses a threat. Illegal and commercial logging in Africa is prevalent and holds a large income for the countries. There is a strong link between bushmeat trade and the loss of habitat due to logging as timber companies open up the forest and create roads to areas which were not previously accessible, such as gorilla habitat. Finally, as ecotourism for gorillas prevail, the threat of infectious disease to gorilla populations do too. 

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Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)


The chimpanzee lives in the dense rain forests of Central and west Africa. Along with Bonobos, the chimpanzee is our closest living relative sharing 98.7% of our genetics. Four subspecies of Pan troglodytes (Western chimpanzee, P. t. verus; Central chimpanzee, P. t. troglodytes; Eastern chimpanzee, P. t. schweinfurthii; and Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee, P. t. ellioti) have been identified, each individualised by their appearance and distribution. Observations of wild chimpanzees was first made by Jane Goodall in the 1960’s. Jane Goodall discovered a plethora of results shining the light on the intelligence and personality of the chimpanzee. Since, chimpanzees have been observed opportunistically hunting other primates and bush pig and making tools to extract termites from logs. Their dynamic and intimate social structure has also since been well documented. Chimpanzees mostly move on the ground, although throughout the day they will descend into a nearby trees to forage and construct sleeping nests from vegetation. 

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Species and subspecies of chimpanzee are endangered with an estimated 90% population decrease in the last twenty years. Like other apes, the chimpanzee faces threats from habitat loss and habitat degradation. Pressure has been put on chimpanzee habitat due to illegal and commercial logging, mining, farming and other forms of land development. Therefore, chimpanzee distribution is usually patchy, and previously rich habitats are now unliveable. Hunting for meat is also a large threat to chimpanzees. Hunting of chimpanzees for a source of meat is nothing new. However, there is a growing unsustainable commercial market for bushmeat, which includes chimpanzee meat. The potential spread of human contracted disease is also seen as a threat due to an increase in eco-tourism and contact with local people. Our close relations to chimpanzees means cross contamination of certain diseases is possible and diseases which may be mild for us could wipe out a single population of chimpanzees. 

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The Small Ape. 

Gibbons (Hylobates, Hoolock, Symphalagus, Nomascus). 


Gibbons are probably the most diverse of the ape species comprising of 20 species. Distribution among this small ape is also diverse, with gibbon’s species found in north-eastern India, Southern China, Thailand and Borneo. Considered a ‘small’ ape, many of the gibbon’s characteristics are shared with the great apes, such as the lack of tail and certain diet choices. However, gibbons possess a variety of unique characteristics too. Most noticeable for their elongated arms, the gibbon use a specialised movement through the trees called brachiation where they swing from tree to tree using their long muscular arms and elongated fingers. Another distinctive characteristic of a gibbon is that they are mostly monogamous. Adults will pair bond and breed with a single mate for life. Compatibility between two gibbons are strengthened through singing duets and grooming. Like great apes, gibbons only produce one offspring at a time and groups are relatively small ranging from 2-6 individuals. These groups consist of the parents and their offspring. 



Gibbons are one of the most endangered families of primates with six species considered Critically Endangered, 13 Endangered and one Vulnerable according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened species. Many threats for the gibbon are similar to their great ape relatives, such as hunting for meat and habitat loss (namely due to farming and for some species palm oil plantations). However, gibbons specifically suffer from being exploited by humans for entertainment and as pets. The illegal pet trade thrives throughout Southeast Asia and baby gibbons can frequently be seen in wildlife markets. The only way to acquire baby gibbons to sell without investing in captive bred individuals is to kill the mother and group in the wild. There has also been a huge rise in using baby gibbons for tourist photos and use as props. Like the illegal pet trade, baby gibbons are taken from the wild. They are usually worked all day and night where they are drugged to stay awake and handed to tourist heading in and out of night clubs in urban areas. 

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Apes are continually under threat and at the risk of becoming extinct. However, there is a silver lining. Around the world sanctuaries and rescue centres are dedicating their time, knowledge and expertise to giving great and small apes another chance. Sanctuaries and rescue centres in North American, Asia and Africa are all part of a growing community to combat exploitation of apes and their habitats. All sanctuaries and rescue centres are NGO's (Non-governmental Organisations) which means they rely wholly on funding from their supporters and sponsors to continue the extraordinary work they undertake everyday. 

Below are just some of the Rescue centres and sanctuaries that take part in Giving Day for Apes. 

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How can YOU get involved?

Head over to the LINK (below) and search for sanctuary taking part in Giving Day for Apes. 


Even small donations go along away. Donating to an ape NGO is probably one of the easiest ways to contribute to primate conservation. Many charities will provide options for you to donate either a one-off payment or a monthly donation. Also don’t forget to follow the charity on their social media sites to see how your donation is helping. 


Many ape organisations will allow you to get a bit more personal with the work they do. By adopting an ape this will contribute directly to the individual. For example, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary encourages supporters to become a chimp guardian. In return the sanctuary provides frequent updates of your chosen chimp, as well as a digital guardian certificate, free annual admission pass to the sanctuary, 10% discount when you stay in one the Tacugama eco-lodges and monthly newsletter.

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What do YOUR donations contribute to

Food for apes.

Food is of course an important purchase for all sanctuaries and rescue centres! Food can vary from fruits and vegetables to milk formula for orphaned apes. Sanctuaries providing forever homes for apes are continually under pressure to provide the right amount and variety of food to their rescued apes. For example, in Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary a chimp will eat an average of 2.5 kg of food every day. Tacugama currently have 96 rescued chimpanzees to care for, this is a total of is 349 ton of food per year.


Left to right: Orangutan Foundation International strive to feed 300+ orangutan, Ape Action Africa, Florence was orphaned when her family was killed by poaches. Bornean Orangutan Survival, orphaned orang-utan being fed on formula. Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, orphan chimpanzee of Sweetwater Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 

Enrichment for apes.

Enrichment seeks to enhance the quality of life for an animal in captivity and is beneficial for helping apes express their natural behaviours. Enrichment constructed by care staff in sanctuaries, as seen below at Orangutan Foundation International (right) helps improve cognitive function and welfare for those apes who are unable to be returned to their home. For rescue centres, rehabilitating apes with hope for release, enrichment contributes to the development of essential skills needed for survival in the wild. This makes enrichment an essential investment. 


Left to right: Rescued gorilla relaxing in her forever home at Limbe Wildlife Centre, enrichment made for orang-utans at Orang-utan Foundation International (OFI), OFI' enrichment team installs brand new hammock, orphan chimp exploring natural habitats at Sanaga-yong Chimpanzee Rescue, Rescued chimpanzee delving into some enrichment.

Enclosure construction and maintenance.

Many apes will be unable to return to the wild due to their past, making sanctuaries their forever home. Most apes live between 35-40 years. Therefore, ensuring enclosures are of good condition and are at a high welfare standard is essential. Money donated by supporters goes towards maintenance of enclosures and enrichment and guarantees apes are kept safe. 


The team at Limbe Wildlife Centre maintains sanctuary enclosures by giving them a thorough clean. 

Veterinary care for apes.

Many apes will arrive at sanctuaries and rescue centres in critical conditions. With the help of donations sanctuaries can afford to provide the correct medical procedures and medicine to apes in need as seen at International animal rescue below. Without support from donations, medical equipment, supplies and professional veterinarians it would not be possible for many chimps, orangutans, bonobo, gorillas and gibbons to survive after being rescued. 


Left to right: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine checks bloods for chimpanzee residents of Chimpanzee Conservation Center, the vet team at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage stay busy through lockdown, vets work hard to help rehabilitate an orphan chimp at Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center, a fundraising campaign at Chimfunshi meant the vet team could invest in a X-ray machine. 

Further rescues and releases.

Donations also allows the charity to continue with what they do best. Money towards rescues will provide the charity the opportunity to pay for transportation, equipment, on route veterinarian care and staff assistance. On the flip side donations help towards release programmes. Along with rehabilitation through enrichment, staff care and food, money donated will help the organisation to undertake habitat surveys and provide transportation of ape to its new home. 


Left to right: Rescued chimpanzee pair before and after shots at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, 6th chimpanzee rescue of 2020 for Lwiro Primate in Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rescue if little Ujsiri at Lwiro Primates, the before and after of Pippa who was rescued back on 1990 by Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. 

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A Final Word:

Some people worry where their money goes when they donate to charities. However, when you donate directly to a conservation organisation you can be sure it will reach the animals we all love so much. Giving Day for Apes is the perfect event to get involved in. The host, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) provide rescue centres and sanctuaries with 'terms of participation'. All sanctuaries must meet specific requirement in order to participate. some requirements include breeding, euthanasia and and contact practices with the apes. With requirements provided you can be sure every organisation which takes place in this event are legit and contribute widely to ape conservation. 


Finally, a huge thanks to all the sanctuaries and rescue centres currently making a difference and who continue to face the battle for apes even when times get tough.  














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