Conserving the Great Apes

World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation Royalties go to the Great Apes Survival Project


The World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation, edited by Julian Caldecott and Lera Miles (California University Press, 2005) – available from California University Press.

From the Foreword by Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“The great apes are our kin.  Like us, they are self-aware and have cultures, tools, politics and medicines.  They can learn to use sign language, and have conversations with people and with each other.  Sadly, however, we have not treated them with the respect they deserve, and their numbers are now declining, the victims of logging, disease, loss of habitat, capture, and hunting …  This atlas tells the story of great ape conservation.  It describes both the progress that has been achieved and what we must do if the great apes are to survive … We need to turn the tide of extinction that threatens our nearest living relatives.”

From the December 2005 BBC Wildlife review by Robin Dunbar:

“This beautiful book charts their decline and its causes, species by species and country by country.  Its detailed maps and tables summarise a wealth of information about the behaviour, ecology and population statistics of the apes.  Yet at the same time, it is a celebration of these remarkable species, our own first cousins in the primate family.  Read it and be fascinated, and then do something about their plight.”

From the 2006 review in Environmental Conservation (volume 33, page 172) by Volker Sommer and Andrew Fowler:
“This is a big book indeed, addressing big issues with the backing of big conservation.  Its heavy-weight glossy paper not only brings the best out of more than 200 colour photos and 50 full-colour maps, but also contains an amount of solid information that has never before been assembled … for academics, conservationists and policy-makers it sets the gold standard for years to come, be it only because such a monumental task can only be taken on every couple of decades.  The [atlas] highlights the plight of our closest living relatives.  Millions of these utterly fascinating creatures roamed the Earth until decades ago, but most populations have disappeared or are seriously threatened, owing to habitat destruction, a relentless trade in bushmeat, diseases and trade … Without apes, this will simply be a poorer planet.”

From the 2007 review in the American Journal of Primatology (volume 69, pages 1-4) by Rebecca M. Stumpf:

“… [T]his atlas represents a comprehensive, unique, up-to-date collection of perspectives on both the conservation status of the great apes and on conservation solutions … It contains a collection of outstanding full-color, and highly-detailed maps … These exquisite maps show what is currently known of the regions’ forest cover …, designated areas (protected and proposed), natural and human-made features, and species distributions … This book provides necessary background for all conservationists and policy makers to devise a plan for each range country and to integrate these plans globally … [It] is highly relevant reading for primatologists, conservation biologists, and interested readers looking for comprehensive, conservation-based information and strategies to save the great apes.  As Caldecott says, “in the final analysis, the limiting factor is not whether the peoples of the world care about great apes, rain forests and the health of planetary ecosystems: many millions clearly do.  The crucial issue is the lack of practical means by which we can express our care in ways that will make a real difference.” Ape extinction will be unavoidable unless we can act decisively and soon.  This atlas compiles much of the information that will help conservationists, primatologists, and politicians work towards that goal.  Moreover, for such a reasonable price, one cannot go wrong, particularly as much of the book’s proceeds go to support ape conservation.”

From the 2007 review in the International Journal of Primatology (volume 28, pages 1457-1460) by D.P. Watts:

“… [T]he editors … have excellently organized a vast amount of material … into 3 general sections.  The first includes a chapter on the ‘Evolution, dispersal and discovery of the great apes’ (Jenkins); a concise and informative chapter on the ecology of great ape habitats (Caldecott and Kapos); and overviews of the distribution, ecology, and behavior of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and, in a cameo appearance, gibbons.  Most of the overviews are collaboratively authored, and many authors have conducted field research on the relevant taxa … A middle section includes chapters on ‘Challenges to great ape survival’ (Miles, Caldecott, and Nellemann), ‘Conservation measures in play’ (Varty, Ferris, Carroll, Caldecott), ‘Lessons learned and the path ahead’ (Caldecott), and ‘Where are the great apes, and whose job is it to save them?’ (Redmond) … much of the material in these chapters explicitly or implicitly reveals the tensions among issues like attention to human needs, development, resource over-exploitation, and strict protection.  The book does not offer a radical critique of the world of conservation NGOs and ICDPs and of the world financial system – it is still within the liberal conservation mainstream – but it comes closer than would have been likely only a few years ago … The third major part of the book provides country-by-country summaries … [and] include distribution maps that … evoke admiration for the enormous amount of work that went into the book … Most of our colleagues in great ape host countries, their students, and the people in their governments won’t have this easy access … just a small glimpse of the enormous problems involved in providing better education as one step on Caldecott’s path ahead.”

From the 2008 review in Conservation Biology (volume 22, pages 224-226) by Thomas R. Gillespie:

“This volume succeeds … where many in the past have failed.  The World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation is a unique and comprehensive resource that will be of great value for conservation biologists, primatologists, and others keen to keep the apes alive and well.”