African Ape Study Sites

PURPOSE: As chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas are studied at more and more locations, it has become obvious that differences among sites are important and potentially informative about human evolution, the nature of culture, and primate socioecology (as well as about the apes themselves). We are no longer trying to understand "the chimpanzee", but why Kibale chimpanzees don't seem to use tools as regularly as do the chimpanzees of Taï. For a definitive account of this rich diversity among chimpanzees, see Chimpanzee Cultures. Socioecologists can use intersite differences to better understand factors influencing ape social systems and behavior - whether ecological (e.g., Wrangham et al. 1996) or cultural (e.g., McGrew et al. 1997); paleontologists and paleoecologists can find in them a rich source of models which can contribute to our understanding of extinct hominoids (e.g., Moore 1996).

To understand the source of differences between sites, it is essential to have a good handle on their ecology, both in quantitative terms and qualitatively -- a picture is worth a thousand words, and all that. This website is intended to facilitate comparative work by making available various maps, aerial photographs, habitat photos, plant lists, rainfall records, etc. that might otherwise be hard to locate.

As such, it is more intended as a research tool than a general source of information about the African apes; while it might turn out to be a handy spot to search for information for a school report, or to prepare for an upcoming ecotour to see apes in the wild, please keep in mind that the site is not designed for that [if that is your goal, try looking for published materials at PrimateLit, a searchable database of publications in primatology]. One consequence is that I don't plan to flag updates and additions with buttons and the like; information will either be there when you look for it, or not! (If not, don't hesitate to let me know, maybe I can get ahold of it.) Another consequence is that Asian apes are on their own; fortunately orangutans are represented at The Orangutan Network, and the "lesser apes" (great in their own right!) at the Gibbon Research Lab/Gibbon Network.

2013 OK, very rarely will I flag updates. This one is worth flagging though:

In recent years, people and organizations involved and interested in ape conservation have requested a single online platform with key information on the status of ape populations, the threats to their survival, and conservation opportunities.

The Ape Populations, Environments and Surveys (A.P.E.S.) Portal ( was created as a response, sponsored by the Arcus and World We Want Foundations, and developed by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Jane Goodall Institute and the Section on Great Apes of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group. (from the email announcement)

With that in mind,

click here to access the site directory.

Because every field researcher I know is already aware of and concerned about conservation issues, there is little here that is directly conservation oriented. If you are interested in information specifically relevant to ape conservation, here are a couple of starting places:
While not African, orangutans are very much apes and are critically endangered. There are credible predictions that they will be extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, at the current rate of habitat loss and illegal killing. Did you know that buying clothing made of rayon contributes to destruction of orangutan habitat? For more on what you can do, see

Orangutan Conservancy

Forest Stewardship Council


Rainforest Action Network (cf. Orangutan campaign, 2013)

Regarding "ape tourism" to see apes in the wild: seeing a wild gorilla or chimpanzee (or bonobo, though no sites are currently set up for tourism) is one of the most moving experiences it is possible to have, and the income generated by such tourism contributes to ape and ape habitat conservation. But there are potential risks to both tourists and apes that you should be aware of before planning such travel. One source of information is Treading Lightly: Responsible Tourism with the African Great Apes, by Carla Litchfield (1997, published by TMVC Pty. Ltd.) This should be available from the publisher, or ask your travel agent to get it for you.
Travelers' Medical and Vaccination Centre
27-29 Gilbert Place Adelaide SA 5000 Australia
Perhaps the greatest threat to wild apes specifically is the very direct one of consumption: across much of Africa, bushmeat is a traditional part of the diet, and because apes are large (more meat for the expense of the cartridge) they are often targeted by hunters (infant apes can sometimes be captured by shooting the mother, and then sold--sometimes to sympathetic tourists who don't realize they are not so much rescuing the current orphan, as paying for ammunition to obtain the next one). The ethics of eating apes are tricky (after all, Hindus find beef-eating by non-Hindus problematic) but what cannot be questioned is that construction of logging roads and increased availability of guns and ammunition have transformed what used to be a sustainable (if unpleasant) kill into one that could exterminate populations, and perhaps species, within a matter of decades. For more on the bushmeat crisis, see
the AZA Bushmeat Crisis Task Force page at

and for an important perspective on the "bushmeat" you probably eat, see Shifting Baselines.
Individuals matter also.There are many captive chimpanzees, as well as some gorillas and orangutans, who have 'outlived their usefulness' (as pets, biomedical research subjects, etc.) and have decades of life to look forward to. We owe them. Here are some facilities/organizations that care for 'retired' apes (and other primates), and can always use support.
Save the Chimps

Chimp Haven

Gorilla Haven

Primarily Primates

International Primate Protection League.

Finally, for general primate-related websites see The Electronic Zoo (perhaps the most complete listing of primate-related links) and/or the Primate Info Net.

References cited: