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Education, Ethics

14 - 08 - 2015

On the trail of the great apes

The national Natural history museum in Paris is devoting an exhibition to the great apes of the rainforest (chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans). This is an opportunity to discover the evolutionary history, the lifestyle and the different threats that touch our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. In Europe, these species are protected and their use for scientific purposes is prohibited. 


Orang-outan, gorille, chimpanzé et bonobo


« We share 98% of our genetic makeup with chimpanzees »


What are the characteristics of the great apes? They have no tails, have a big brain and live in tropical rainforests - chimpanzees and gorillas live in Africa while orang-utans roam Southeast Asia. Gibbons are considered to be “small” apes, different from the others because of their size and lifestyle.


Like all great apes, we belong to the family of the hominids. By the way, the chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom and we share more than 98% of our genetic heritage with them.


The great apes at risk


The six species of great apes (see image above) are classified as “endangered” under the Convention on International Trade of endangered species, according to UNESCO.


Multiple dangers threaten the species: deforestation, poaching, climate change and diseases. Furthermore, “due to a high genetic proximity, many diseases can be transmitted from apes to humans and vice versa,” according to the press release of the exhibition. The Flu and the Ebola virus are part of those.


In Europe, the great apes are protected and their use for scientific purposes is prohibited. Highly regulated, research may use other primates such as marmosets or macaques.


Click here to learn more about research on primates.


The exhibit “On the trail of the great apes” is open to the public from February 11th 2015 to March 21st 2016 at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.