WILL GREAT APES SURVIVE EXTINCTION IN THE WILD THROUGH THE END OF THIS DECADE?
Great Apes 2020 is Gerry Ellis’ personal journey to answer that question. Faced with escalating habitat loss, poaching, infectious disease transmission (Ebola), and host of
other pressing threats, it’s clear that without dramatic, urgent action great apes will not survive in the wild.
Gerry is embarking on the most ambitious project of his 30-year career as an environmental photojournalist: a multi-year global journey into remote Borneo and Sumatra, and the heart of Equatorial Africa, to chronicle the issues facing great apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans—extinction. His journey will focus on a global perspective: on-the-ground explorations, interviews with prominent researchers and conservationists, as well as local people whose lives are inextricably linked to their neighboring great apes.
Why This Story?
The Great Apes 2020 project is a global effort across the equatorial great ape range states in Africa and Asia as well as examining third-parties significantly driving wildlife and illegal resources trafficking. The project is not about any single ape species. Rather it focuses on the issues facing all apes—deforestation, poaching, conflict resources, industrial-scale agriculture (palm oil), zoonotic disease (Ebola) and climate chaos.
Despite the hardship, danger and frustration faced by many dedicated conservationists and researchers, efforts to save great apes from extinction in the wild are largely failing. Great Apes 2020 is an effort to combine investigative journalistic rigor; an objective scientific approach; and the latest communication and education resources to analyze critical threats to great ape extinction, search for innovative solutions to their survival, and engage the public as deeply and immediately as possible.
With an increasing number of great ape experts voicing their deep concern that if the tide is not turned immediately, great apes face extinction in the wild by the end of this decade—2020—six short years.
A Unique Perspective
Over the past twenty-five years, thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of images have been created depicting the chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, both in captivity and in the wild. Yet, despite this voluminous visual reportage, no single effort has set out to tell the over-arching, integrated global story of great apes in photojournalistic form. This is a primary goal of the Great Apes 2020 project.
As a photographer, Gerry began documenting the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas in the central Rift of Africa in 1990. A year later he traveled to Borneo to photograph orangutans. These early expeditions became the foundation for the past two decades of exploring great apes in their wild native habitats.
With Great Apes 2020 Gerry will do more than pick up where he left off — he has begun returning to Equatorial Central and West Africa, and Borneo and Sumatra to investigate the key challenges great apes face if they are to survive in the wild. His goal is to create a visual diary of the reality facing great apes and share that work in real-time with followers. To expand the visual intimacy and immediacy of the journey Gerry has teamed up with award-winning documentary filmmaker Skye Fitzgerald.
Great Apes 2020 will be an unprecedented perspective on great ape life, even if only because it avoids a stereotypic natural history look at apes while brining viewers closer to seeing them and their part in the grand and comprehensive global scheme. Great Apes 2020 apart from all previous work will be the focus on telling the story through the eyes, perspectives, and passion of the people who live and work with apes, in situ, mostly out of sight of the rest of the world. These stakeholders, critical to the long-term survival of great apes in the wild, include trackers, anti-poaching patrols, ape orphanage staff, native researchers, farmers, poachers, rangers, veterinarians, and park guides.
GREAT APES 2020 OUTREACH
Sharing Great Apes 2020 discoveries with the broadest possible audience is a critical goal. To reach people in every walk of life requires partners. The story of great apes