Protecting Chimpanzees

I'm determined my great grandchildren will be able to go to Africa and find wild great apes'.
--Jane Goodall

Protecting Chimps

Protecting chimpanzees is at the heart of JGI’s work, reflecting Jane Goodall’s historic legacy. No other organization is as closely aligned to the work of understanding and protecting chimpanzees as the Jane Goodall Institute.

Reflecting Jane Goodall’s holistic approach to problem-solving and best practices in conservation, we address this goal through community-centered conservation -- partnering with communities to develop sustainable livelihoods, establish and manage protected areas, and create environmental land use plans.

We also engage in direct conservation efforts, including:

  • Conserving Habitat. Loss of habitat, due in large part to demands of a growing human population, is one of the greatest threats to the survival of chimpanzees.
  • Rescuing chimp orphans. JGI protects the youngest victims of the illegal bushmeat trade –chimpanzees who’ve lost their mothers.
  • Raising awareness. The threats to chimpanzees are exacerbated by a lack of information and awareness – the kind of knowledge that inspires individuals, communities and policymakers to protect wildlife.

Today, due to the loss of habitat - one of the greatest threats chimpanzees face today – chimpanzees are found in only 21 African countries.

habitatprotectionCurrently, Africa has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. The continent’s 1999 population of 767 million people is projected to have more than doubled by 2050, according to UN population figures. This tremendous population growth places unsustainable demands on the land, mostly from the commercial trade in timber, mining products, and bushmeat. Trees are cut for firewood and building poles. Forests are clear-cut to make room for living space, crops and grazing livestock. Human-wildlife conflict has escalated drastically as competition for precious natural resources intensifies.

Naturally, all this human activity takes a toll on the land and the wildlife. Chimpanzee populations are no exception. At one point, chimpanzees lived in 25 African countries. Today, due to the loss of habitat - one of the greatest threats chimpanzees face today – chimpanzees are found in only 21 African countries.

One of JGI’s primary goals is to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. While doing this, we also work to create sustainable livelihoods for locals. JGI’s efforts to conserve chimpanzees and their habitat include:

Conservation Action Planning

Protecting chimpanzees and their habitats requires an integrated approach that looks beyond the boundaries of protected areas; after all, many chimpanzees live or travel outside of these borders. JGI’s approach, based on a method developed by The Nature Conservancy, involves assembling wildlife and conservation experts, NGOs and government representatives to identify and prioritize threats to entire ecosystems and strategies to mitigate them. Strategies address relevant regional environmental, economic development and socio-economic needs and realities.

Law Enforcement

Establishing protected areas through the demarcation of reserves and national parks is an important first step in protecting habitats. Unfortunately, most governments lack the resources to adequately protect chimpanzees and other species from poachers, particularly hunters travelling by foot, who are able to penetrate forests much more deeply than a vehicle. JGI helps fill the gap by training, managing and equipping law enforcement personnel. In the Republic of Congo, for example, JGI trains and manages eco-guards who protect the Tchimpounga Natural Reserve. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, JGI has trained law enforcement personnel on the threats to chimpanzees and laws in place to protect them.

Protected Area Management

Just as governments overseeing protected areas may lack the resources to adequately protect chimpanzees, they may require added resources to effectively manage the areas. JGI helps fill this gap in a variety of ways. In the Republic of Congo, for example, JGI is conducting surveys that will support the government’s expansion of the Tchimpounga Natural Reserve. In Tanzania, JGI played a key role in helping the Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) prepare and adopt a comprehensive management plan for Gombe National Park. In addition, JGI has helped TANAPA research and address issues related to the health of humans and chimpanzees within the park.

Snare Removal

Poachers plant wire and rope snares on the forest floors, where the traps can catch and strangle chimpanzee hands and feet, causing grave injury or even death. With the paid help of former poachers, JGI has removed tens of thousands of the illegal snares in three forest blocks in Uganda, including Kibale National Park, the Kalinzu Forest Reserve, and the Budongo Forest Reserve.


JGI’s chimpanzee conservation efforts include working with communities to develop and promote sustainable livelihoods. Given that African wildlife is a huge draw for tourists, ecotourism is an obvious opportunity. In Uganda, JGI has helped establish ecotourism centres that allow tourists to view chimpanzees in their habitat. Similarly, JGI Uganda works with local women to market their crafts to tourists traveling to the region to view the chimpanzees. Ecotourism efforts such as these help educate local people and visitors about the importance of protecting chimpanzees and their habitats.

In many chimpanzee range areas, people don’t know that chimpanzees are endangered and protected by law.

What’s more, legislation often is insufficient and governments don’t have the political will or means to aggressively protect chimpanzees. From the park ranger and forestry agent to the judges who must adjudicate wildlife laws, implementation capacity is extremely weak. Human resources are insufficient, training is nonexistent, and logistical resources inadequate.

awarenessAll of this makes awareness efforts a critical part of conservation. Only when local communities understand chimpanzees’ precarious state, similarities to us, value to local economies and role within ecosystems will they work for chimpanzee survival.

To address the lack of public awareness and understanding, JGI implements a number of initiatives in great ape range countries in Guinea and Sierra Leone and in targeted communities in the Republic of Congo:

  • Large-scale awareness campaigns using media such as radio, television and newspapers, and advertising
  • Smaller-scale efforts using traveling plays, billboards, posters, and flyers
  • JGI’s Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots environmental education programme for young people, which plays a vital role in educating young people about endangered species and conservation issues

We also focus on the legal and enforcement apparatus necessary to protect great apes and their habitats, conducting reviews of existing legislation, and providing training and awareness materials for law enforcement personnel.

In Uganda, JGI has developed an Environmental Education Teachers Guide to help teachers include relevant chimpanzee issues in curricula. JGI-Uganda also carries out “sensitization” briefings for local leaders and politicians to raise their awareness of environmental concerns and the efforts needed to address them.

Spreading the word across the globe

Around the world, Jane Goodall is one of the most recognizable champions of chimpanzees. She travels and speaks more than 300 days a year, telling individuals and large audiences about her life and work, the threats facing chimpanzees and other great apes, and JGI’s conservation, development and education work. 

Educating Zoo Visitors

In 1984, Jane founded ChimpanZoo, an international programme dedicated to the well being and understanding of chimpanzees in zoos and other captive settings. Participating zoos and JGI staff train students, caretakers and volunteers to record behavioural observations and work with zoo keepers to improve the lives of captive chimpanzees and compare their behaviour to that of chimps in the wild.

To protect chimpanzees from extinction we must address the root causes of numerous threats, including habitat loss, the illegal bushmeat and exotic pet trades, armed conflict, and infectious disease.

rescuing orphan chimpanzeesSanctuary chimpanzee pictured. JGI does not endorse approaching or handling wild chimpanzees.

But we also face an immediate crisis -- the continual growth in the number of “bushmeat orphans.” Commercial bushmeat hunters kill many chimpanzees every year. Infants, too small to be killed for meat, are often put on the black market for sale as pets or entertainers.

We work on a number of fronts to help the young victims of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade:

Rescue: Working with African governments, JGI ensures that illegally held chimpanzees are confiscated from poachers or market vendors and placed in sanctuaries across Africa.

Sanctuary: JGI operates the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa -- the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre in one of the Congo Basin regions where the commercial bushmeat trade is having the greatest impact on endangered species like chimpanzees. It provides a refuge where chimpanzees are cared for and given the chance to live full lives in spacious conditions. Tchimpounga is in the heart of the Congo Basin’s illegal commercial bushmeat corridor.

Rehabilitation: Our comprehensive conservation strategy includes an ambitious goal: introducing orphaned chimps back into the wild. A generous grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service is helping JGI staff to conduct a biodiversity survey and other assessments to find a site suitable for chimpanzee reintroduction into the wild. For Jane Goodall, a successful reintroduction programme would be a dream come true.

Community Development and Education: Tchimpounga also provides tangible benefits to surrounding communities by supporting local development projects such as the construction of wells for clean drinking water, employing local people as staff, and buying all the fruits and vegetables needed to feed the chimps from local markets. Tchimpounga staff members also conduct public awareness workshops and other events to raise awareness about the problem of bushmeat and the value of biodiversity.

Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre

Chimps orphaned by hunters’ bullets and snares are traumatized. Not only have they been removed from their forest homes, most have witnessed the killings of their mothers and other family members. The health of these orphaned chimpanzees quickly declines. Some will die.

For Jane, abandoning these chimpanzees was never an option. “How could I turn my back on their outstretched hands, their pleading eyes and the orphans’ pathetic, malnourished bodies?” she says. Many people discouraged Jane from even contemplating saving these abandoned chimpanzees. To take care of the youngsters would be a large undertaking, since in all likelihood the animals would need to be cared for their entire lives – an estimated 50-60 years.

But in 1992, at Jane Goodall’s behest, the Conoco oil company built the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre – one of the first safe havens for victims of the bushmeat trade. The opening of this centre meant many orphaned chimpanzees would be given a second chance at happier lives.

gregoireTchimpounga is situated on a coastal plain of savannah and galleried mosaic forest patches. It is located within the Tchimpounga Natural Reserve, 31 miles (50km) north of the city of Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo’s Kouilou region. Its mission includes chimpanzee protection, education, ecotourism and involvement of local populations in sustainable development. There are more than 160 chimpanzees there today, living in six age-graded groups that have access to several large outdoor forest enclosures.

One of the Sanctuary’s most famous residents, a gentle old chimp named Gregoire, was something of a Congolese national hero. When he died in his sleep in 2008, hundreds of people wrote to Jane online to express their condolences and sorrow at Gregoire’s passing.