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Translocation and Reintroduction of Great Apes

The process of reintroducing great apes may be long, complex, expensive and often fraught with pitfalls. To assist current and future reintroduction projects, the Primate Specialist Group produced these guidelines, designed to provide a framework of simple, practical standards for wildlife professionals working with great ape reintroduction.

Although IUCN has established working protocols for plant and animal reintroduction, the great apes present unique challenges and concerns owing to their singular cognitive development. This prompted the Primate Specialist Group to reconsider the existing guidelines in terms of the specific needs of great apes. The resulting synthesis, representing the expert opinion of primatologists and reintroduction practitioners, is presented here as part of the series of best-practices documents.

Specifically designed for rehabilitators and specialists in reintroduction, these guidelines start from the fundamental assumption that reintroductions should not endanger wild populations of great apes or the ecosystems they inhabit. Equally important is the health and welfare of the individual great apes being reintroduced, as well as the caretaker staff and the residents of the surrounding areas. The reintroduction guidelines also require that the factors which first threatened great apes in the proposed site of release have been addressed and resolved.

For all great ape individuals being considered for reintroduction, the guidelines recommend extensive medical screenings, to protect both the reintroduced individuals and any wild apes they may interact with. Once reintroduced, the apes must be closely monitored for at least a year – a challenge in itself, given the apes’ size, strength and ranging behaviour. This document addresses this and other issues in detail, and the Primate Specialist Group recommends that these guidelines be implemented by all groups and programmes planning great ape reintroduction.

An amendment to the guidelines for orangutan reintroduction was agreed in 2015:

AMENDMENT to the guidelines for reintroduction of orangutans 04/15 PDF

PDFs of the full reintroduction guidelines are available in English, French and Bahasa Indonesia:

Citation: Beck, B., Walkup, K., Rodrigues, M., Unwin, S., Travis, D. and Stoinski, T. 2007. Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-introduction of Great Apes. IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.

Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-introduction of Great Apes
Chimpanzees