Ape Action Africa operates in Cameroon and grew out of a previously established organisation – the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund, or CWAF – that started off by making environments at a zoo in the central African country better for apes housed there; it went on to care for orphans whose parents were either slaughtered for meat or sold as pets.
Ape Action Africa has three primary goals: looking after primates who are orphaned, rescuing and rehabilitating orphan primates, and conducting educational programmes to inform local people about ape protection as part of their heritage.
Gorillas in Cameroon
The central African nation of Cameroon, one of the most biodiverse places on the entire continent and home to fast-dwindling populations of gorilla, is where the conservation charity Ape Action Africa carries out its work. It’s where the rarest gorilla in the world is found, the Cross River gorilla, and with less than 250 left, it’s now listed as crucially endangered.
This subspecies is threatened by the scourge of poaching seen throughout Africa, as all kinds of animals are either caught and slaughtered as part of the illegal bushmeat trade, or sold in pet markets. With so few Cross River gorillas remaining in Cameroon, it’s quite literally a race against time to stop them from being wiped out entirely.
The more common Western Lowland Gorilla is also found in Cameroon, and it too is endangered, including by the encroachment of the human population – 22.5 million people in the country – and settlements in gorillas’ natural habitats.
Enter Ape Action Africa, which works to save gorillas in Cameroon by rescuing those youngsters that have been left as orphans and rehabilitating them. Ape Action Africa also engage with the local people to try and foster an understanding that the gorillas in their country are an integral part of their heritage and should be protected, not destroyed and driven to extinction for short-term monetary gain.
The charity routinely rescues orphaned gorillas that may only have just been born, or are a few days old, giving them a shot a life and helping to keep gorilla numbers up. They’re rehabilitated at one of the biggest primate rehabilitation centres in Africa, in Mefou Primate Park, before being released into environments that are controlled and therefore protected from poachers.
Conservation Through Education
Informing schoolchildren about what the charity does is a key element of its conservation programme, because when they recognise the value of great apes – as heritage, not commodity – from an early age, they’re less likely to be drawn into the illicit trading of them when they’re older. This is especially important given that, although illegal, gorilla meat is considered a local delicacy and is in big demand – high prices mean people are willing to take big risks (legally and with their own lives) and go hunting gorillas.
Among Ape Action Africa’s educational outreach programmes are visits to local schools and nature clubs that children can take part in. The charity also works with locals in interesting ways (tree-planting programmes, for instance) so that they learn about their environment and the creatures living in it, especially primates.