The #GreatApeMoment social campaign was launched by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) in September 2012 to capitalize upon the mass appeal of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos – the four great apes — and use images that triggered a sense of anthropomorphism to promote conservation.
GRASP, a unique alliance of 98 national governments, research institutions, conservation organizations, United Nations (UN) agencies and private companies, is the only species conservation programme within the UN. By utilizing that broad network, GRASP leveraged the #GreatApeMoment social campaign via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to raise awareness and support for partner projects in Africa and Asia.
#GreatApeMoment images are chosen to emphasize shared physical and emotional traits between humans and apes, including love, passion, sadness, happiness, wonder, strength, envy, jealousy, play, deceit and fear, among others. Those same images also emphasize how endangered and precious the great apes are, as issues such as illegal hunting, deforestation, disease, human development and the illegal pet trade were brought to the fore.
Great apes exist in only 23 countries in Africa and Asia, and in the last century alone have gone extinct in four countries in Africa. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos are all classified as “endangered,” with some populations – including the Cross River gorilla and the Sumatran orangutan – listed as “critically endangered.”
The #GreatApesMoment social media campaign quickly emerged as one of the most popular aspects of GRASP’s outreach programme. Through nearly 1,000 regular posts, GRASP reached an annual audience of 3 million viewers in 30 languages across 40 countries. Women between the ages of 20 to 35 comprised 62 percent of that audience, with men between the ages of 18 to 25 comprised 37 percent.
Among the most popular images used in the #GreatApeMoment social media campaign were those of an infant gorilla reacting to a cold stethoscope (700,000 people reached)image on top , an infant gorilla tucked neatly inside its parent’s hand (500,000 people reached), and fans an adult orangutan calmly resting on a hospital bed (300,000 people reached).
Great apes are charismatic mammals who help their ecosystems in a number of ways, but, through social media, can also galvanize viewers to bring attention to the biodiversity hotspots in which they live. The growth of GRASP’s social media presence is indicative of the power of great apes for conservation