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Great Apes

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Western Lowland Gorilla

The Little Rock Zoo is home to six western lowland gorillas that reside in two groups/troops. This troop is a family that was led by our beloved silverback, Fossey, until his death on August 10, 2015, and includes Catherine, Sekani and Adelina. On May 18, 2016, the Little Rock Zoo welcomed a new male silverback from the Santa Barbara Zoo. Their first gorilla birth at the Little Rock Zoo was Mosie, born in October 2006 to parents Fossey and Sekani.

  • Largest living primates (a group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans).
  • Despite their formidable size, gorillas are gentle animals.
  • The western lowland gorilla is not the gorilla featured in the book and movie Gorillas in the Mist. That’s the mountain gorilla (one of the subspecies of eastern gorilla).
  • Western lowland gorillas eat parts of at least 97 plant species.

ENDANGERED

Western Chimpanzee

The Little Rock Zoo is home a family of seven chimpanzees; two females, a mother (born in 1970) and daughter, and 5 males.

  • The Little Rock Zoo is home to a family of 7 chimpanzees.
  • The chimpanzee shares more than 98 percent of the same genetic material with humans, making it our closest living relative.
  • The chimpanzee is one of the few animal species that makes and uses tools. Examples include using sticks to catch insects and stones to crack open nuts.
  • Chimpanzees live in large groups called communities.
  • Apes, including chimpanzees, have color vision.
  • A chimpanzee's arm span is 1.5 times that of their height which aids in knuckle-walking and climbing.

Chimpanzees are an endangered species. Only about 150,000 chimpanzees’ survive in African forests today, down from one to two million in 1900. They are endangered for many reasons, including poaching, habitat loss, and disease introduced by humans. Much of their habitat has been lost to deforestation in response to logging, creation of farmland, and other human encroachment. Probably the greatest threat to chimpanzees today, though, is overhunting.

Chimpanzees are one of the species most severely imperiled by the illegal commercial bushmeat trade. In Africa, forest is called “bush.” The flesh of wild animals taken from forest is called “bushmeat.” The sale of bushmeat for profit, now occurring on an international scale, poses the most significant immediate threat to wildlife in Africa and around the world.  Logging and mining companies have cut roads deep into the forests, making it easier for commercial hunters to get in, camp, hunt, get out, and take bushmeat to market.

Bushmeat is sold not only in local African villages but internationally, including here in the United States. Many consumers consider it a delicacy. So long as there is demand for bushmeat – and without practical economic alternatives – hunters will supply it.

The Little Rock Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for chimpanzees. This is a cooperative breeding program, serving 34 zoos working together to ensure the survival of the species. Although our primary role is in population management, we are ultimately interested in the health and wellbeing of ALL chimpanzees, including those living outside accredited zoos and in the wild.  The Chimpanzee SSP is administered under the Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG).

What can you do to help chimpanzees?

You can help us bring species like chimpanzees back from the brink by supporting the Little Rock Zoo. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Northwest Bornean Orangutan

The Little Rock Zoo is home to a pair of Bornean orangutans.  Our male is a 315 pound Bornean orangutan. He arrived to the Little Rock Zoo from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska in August 2014.  Our female is of the same species, and joined Bandar in January 2017. Our female came from Los Angeles Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, which ensure that the captive orangutan population remains healthy, genetically diverse, and self-sustaining. 

The pair are outside and usually may be seen year-round as long as temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. On cooler days, or mornings, and during storms, they will be snuggled up indoors with their favorite blankets and beds they build from fresh straw every day.  The female is in charge even though her partner is 3 times her size.  These two love to cuddle and can often be seen snuggling up together for naps in the sun.

There are two different types of adult male orangutan: flanged and unflanged. Flanged males have prominent cheek pads called flanges and a throat sac used to make loud verbalizations called 'long calls'. They also have a long coat of dark hair on their back.

Northwest Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) is the most threatened subspecies with only 1,500 remaining. They are spread in Sarawak (Malaysia) and the northern West Kalimantan region (Indonesia).

  • Orangutans are the largest tree-living mammals in the world.
  • Except for humans, orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal in the world.
  • In the Malay language, the name “orangutan” means “person of the forest”.
  • Orangutans have the most mobile lips and mouths of all the great apes; they are capable of many facial expressions.
  • The Bornean orangutan was upgraded from endangered to critically endanger by International Union for Conservation in July 2016.

Northwest Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) is the most threatened subspecies with only 1,500 remaining.  The risk of extinction for the critically endangered Bornean orangutan is very high. Their population levels have dropped more than 50 percent over the past 60 years, and their habitat has declined by over 80 percent in the past 20 years. One of the most serious threats to orangutan viability is the unsustainable practice of timber extraction in Indonesia and Malaysia. Habitat destruction and the subsequent degradation, either from commercial timber harvesting or conversion of land to agriculture (particularly palm oil), poses a very serious threat to these arboreal apes. Moreover, the illegal pet trade is booming in Southeast Asia and infant orangutans are very popular pets. Another significant threat to orangutan survival is hunting for meat and capture of wild orangutans for sale into the pet trade. This practice is closely tied to what is called swidden agriculture: as locals burn fires to clear forested areas, orangutans within those areas flee from the conflagration and are captured for meat or sale.

What can you do to help orangutans?

The Little Rock Zoo’s orangutans are a part of a Species Survival Plan® established by the Association for Zoos and Aquariums. Together with Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Orangutan SSP we help to ensure the species’ survival in the wild through conservation efforts such as programs to combat illegal palm oil harvesting.

We would like to thank the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO for being the leader in palm oil education for the AZA and for the Orangutan SSP. Visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to learn about palm oil, its impact on orangutans and other species, and what you can do about the crisis.  In addition to the free smartphone app, you can also download an "elevator speech" with ideas to make it easy to tell others about the palm oil crisis, and many other resources to help you become an informed consumer.

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