At least 361 species of primates have been identified to this day, and new primates continue to be discovered. Basically, primates are split into two classes: the prosimians and the anthropoids. Great apes belong to the second group.

Great Apes

These largest primates are found in the tropical forests of Africa (gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo) and Asia (orang utan). As part of the family Hominidae, which also includes humans, we have a common ancestor. Humans diverged from the great apes around seven million years ago. The chimpanzee is our closest relative, sharing more than 98 percent of our DNA.

Like humans, great apes have opposable thumbs, a furless face, and no tail. They are known to knuckle-walk but, like us, they can walk upright, for instance to get across obstacles or to intimidate an opponent. Great apes have a remarkable ability to learn and have a wide range of communication skills (vocalizations, postures and facial expressions). Like us they use tools which can require years of observation and practice to master. Unlike human, their arms are longer than their legs and their big toe is also opposable. African great apes live in two ecological niches: on the ground and in the trees.

Primates reproduce slowly. Among chimpanzees for instance, females reach their sexual maturity at around 10-12 years old, and give birth to one child only every 5 to 6 years, the mother devoting years to her offspring. Offspring are dependent on their mother for many years, breastfeeding up to 6 years old. They learn everything from their mothers and from the rest of the group: social rules, traditions, communication skills, tool use, hunting techniques, diet…

Chimpanzees have a life span similar to ours, up to 70 years in captivity, 40 in the wild. Those characteristics that are similar to our own are also their weakness.  Due in part to their extended developmental period and our genetic proximity, great apes are threatened with extinction…

Some numbers

  • Humans (Homo sapiens): 7,647,177,312
  • Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla): 120,000
  • Bonobos (Pan paniscus): 50,000-100,000
  • Bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) : 100,000 – 150,000
  • GRASP estimate an annual loss around 2,972 great apes.


At P-WAC we also rescue monkeys, such as the red tailed monkey. There are five subspecies of this monkey. Spotted brown, the face is black with blue around the eyes. The chest has a white fur and the tail is red-brown. The color of the nose varies from white to yellow or black, depending on the subspecies. It is less than 50 cm tall and has a tail of about 60 cm in length. It can weigh between 3 and 7 kg. The peculiarity of its kind: it has jowls in which it keeps its food! It is mainly frugivorous (a fruit eater) but also consumes leaves and insects. Diurnal and arboreal, it uses all the space, from the ground to the canopy, and disperses the seeds consumed during its movements, thus helping to regenerate the forest on which it depends. This monkey has a social organization “uni-male / multifemales”, that is to say that females usually live with a male. Depending on the season and subspecies, they may accept other males at certain times of the year. If females remain in the same group all their life, males migrate at sexual maturity to form a group of males, or remain solitary. A group can have 35 individuals and range from 20 to 55 hectares, traveling nearly 1500 meters per day.

In the wild, it can be hunted by eagles, leopards, pythons, primates (baboons, chimpanzees), and humans. Due to the lack of scientific studies, it is considered to be at low risk of extinction (it is classified in CITES II). This does not mean that it is not in danger, but simply that he is not well known. Not having the same status of integral protection as chimpanzees, this monkey is under pressure and its future is also uncertain: It is also hunted for its meat and the young are also sold as pets. The locals use them as watchdogs : since they are territorial, they will give an alert whenever someone enters a parcel. Expats buy them as pets. If some people buy them because they want to help the monkey by rescuing from the hunter, this gesture nevertheless encourages poaching because the hunters then return for another prey. Currently, all our monkeys come from expatriates.