Linking ape conservation with poverty alleviation


Great Ape conservation organisations are increasingly aware of the need to address poverty if they are to be successful in their efforts to conserve habitats and protect dwindling Great Ape populations. This project aims to encourage the involvement of Great Ape conservation organisations in the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (PCLG) to promote shared learning.

Great ape. Photo: Noodlefish

Great apes are iconic species that are highly valued by the international community and are a high priority for various international conservation efforts. But their ranges are in some of the poorest countries of the world. The cost of conservation is often felt at the local level when great apes compete for space with local people dependent on the land for their livelihoods. Conserving ape habitats also often entails trade-offs with other potential land uses that may be fundamental to national economic development. 

Despite the trade-offs, the protection of Great Ape ranges is not devoid of economic value.  In some countries – notably Rwanda and Uganda – ecotourism generates a significant source of national income.  But revenues are rarely shared with local people to a level that generates real incentives for conservation. As a result, a potentially valuable resource not only fails to realize its full potential to reduce poverty, but the actual, or perceived, negative impacts of conservation may result in local antipathy – or even outright hostility – to conservation efforts.

Examples of completed activities

A review was conducted in 2009-10 to document the existing experiences of conservation and development organisations across Africa in linking great ape conservation and poverty alleviation.

A report on research conducted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park by CARE International and partners in Uganda was published in 2010: Development AND Gorillas? Assessing fifteen years of integrated conservation and development in south-western Uganda. This work is now being taken forward in a new project funded by the Darwin Initiative and UKaid.

Ape conservation organisations from East and West Africa met in Uganda in 2010 to share their experiences and approaches to ape conservation and to jointly identify areas where they needed to build capacity. Following on from this, in Indonesia in 2012, African and Asian policy makers and practitioners met to compare approaches to key issues such as great ape tourism, ape-human conflict and forest carbon conservation.

In 2013 a discussion paper on good practice in linking Great Ape conservation and poverty alleviation was published.

Current work

Current work focuses on further strengthening the capacity of conservation organisations to address poverty issues, both through national Poverty and Conservation Learning Groups and through the international PCLG network. It moves beyond a focus on how conservation organisations tackle poverty on the ground, to how they can make better links with development organisations, the private sector, parliamentarians and other institutions that influence investment decisions in great ape ranges.

Find out more about the Great Ape project.