Publications Photo by David d'O

GRASP publications are peer-reviewed reports presenting the latest science surrounding great apes conservation, along with political and technical advice for decision-makers and other actors, especially in range states.

The conservation community should collaborate more closely than ever with oil palm developers if a global sustainable strategy is to be achieved and great apes and their fragile ecosystems are to be saved. Palm Oil Paradox: Sustainable Solutions to Save the Great Apes is the result of a two-year study of palm oil development in Southeast Asia, and the steps required to ensure that the loss of biodiversity that occurred in that region is not repeated as the crop expands into Africa.



Ebola has claimed almost 12000 human lives, but it has also decimated great ape populations. What are the best strategies for approaching zoonotic diseases like Ebola to keep both humans and great apes safe?


Over 80 percent of the orangutan’s remaining habitat in Borneo could be lost by the year 2080 if the island’s current land-use policies remain intact, according to a new United Nations report.


The Sharing Forests – Great Apes & Us is a magazine on the projects developed in Central Africa (Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of Congo and The Republic of Congo) and Indonesia.


The illegal trade that sees almost 3,000 live great apes lost from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year is increasingly impacting wild populations as links to organized crime grow stronger. Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans is the first report to analyze the scale and scope of the illegal trade and highlights the growing links to sophisticated trans-boundary crime networks, which law enforcement networks are struggling to contain. It was produced by the UN Environment through GRASP, and estimates that a minimum of 22,218 great apes have been lost from the wild since 2005 – either sold, killed during the hunt, or dying in captivity – with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of that number. The report examines confiscation records, international trade databases, law enforcement reports, and arrival rates from sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers between 2005 and 2011.


Deforestation is responsible for approximately 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore a major contributor to climate change, but also to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and a direct threat to Asia’s great ape – the orangutan.

Between 2005-2010, Indonesia had accelerating forest loss compared to 2000-2005 and is within the highest five countries for percentage of primary forest loss globally. This acceleration in forest loss not only negatively impacts forests and biodiversity, but also local and global ecosystem services such as water supply, human health and food security in addition to climate change mitigation. Much of the deforestation is caused by both illegal and short-term economic gains, often ndermining long-term development goals.

As its name implies, the Sumatran orangutan – “person (orang) of the forest (hutan)” in Malay – occurs only in forests on the island of Sumatra (Rijksen and Meijaard 1999). More specifically, the wild population today survives solely in the north-western regions of the island, in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. These provinces stretch from the Indian Ocean in the west to the Strait of Malacca, which separates Sumatra from mainland Malaysia further to the east. They are also bisected by the Bukit Barisan mountain range that runs down the full length of Sumatra.

These mountains reach altitudes of over 3,000 meters above sea level (m asl), with the highest peaks being Gunung Kerinci in West Sumatra (3,800 m asl) and Gunung Leuser (3,404 m asl) in Aceh (Map 2) and exert a major influence on rainfall patterns. Western regions receive much more rain than those in the east, as prevailing winds from the Indonesian ocean are forced upwards, cooling rapidly and condensing water vapour, which then falls as precipitation.



Gorillas, the largest of the great apes, are under renewed threat across the Congo Basin from Nigeria to the Albertine Rift: poaching for bushmeat, loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from logging, mining and charcoal production are amongst these threats, in addition to natural epidemics such as ebola and the new risk of diseases passed from humans to gorillas.

Alarmingly, parts of the region are experiencing intensified exploitation and logging of its forest, in some cases even within protected areas. In the DR Congo, many of these activities are controlled by militias illegally extracting natural resources such as gold, tin and coltan as well as producing charcoal for local communities, urban areas, camps for people displaced by fighting and sometimes even to communities across the border. These militias are located, motivated, armed and financed directly by this illegal extraction of minerals, timber and charcoal. A network of intermediaries including multinational companies or their subsidiaries, neighboring countries and corrupt officials, are involved in the transportation and procurement of resources which stem from areas controlled by militia, or for which no legal exploitation permission exists.



The survival of orangutans and other rain forest wildlife in Indonesia is seriously endangered by illegal logging, forest fires including those associated with the rapid spread of oil palm plantations, illegal hunting and trade. Recent estimates suggest there are between 45,000 and 69,000 Bornean and no more than 7,300 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. The orangutans share their habitat with a wild range of other threatened and ecologically important species including the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Asian elephant.



The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation was launched by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UN Environment on September 1, 2005, at the Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London, with presentations by Lera Miles, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, co-editor of the Atlas, Glyn Davies, Director of Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London and Mark Leighton, Chair, GRASP Interim Scientific Commission. A second launch was done on the 9th of September 2005 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the Intergovernmental Meeting on Great Apes and First GRASP Council Meeting.

The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation provides a comprehensive review of what is currently known about the Great Apes, including a description of their ecology, distribution and key threats that each great ape species faces. The Atlas includes an assessment of the current status of great ape species in each of the countries where they are found, together with an overview of current conservation action and priorities, illustrated with maps.

The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation also highlights the importance of Great Apes to humans. The Atlas will be of interest to the general public, as well as conservation groups, non-governmental organizations, governments, intergovernmental organisations, educators and students. The publication raises the international profile of Great Ape conservation efforts, and helps to guide future action.



This report assesses the impact of infrastructural development on great ape populations, using the GLOBIO modelling approach. GLOBIO is a multivariable special model, which estimates the extent of land area with reduced abundance and diversity of living organisms, as a result of infrastructural development. The model can be used to develop scenarios of possible future impacts, based on the current rates of infrastructural development. Results of the GLOBIO analyses indicate that more than 70% of the habitat of each of the African great ape species has been negatively affected by infrastructural development. For the orangutan, the corresponding figure is 64%.