On the edge of extinction: why western chimpanzees matter – photo essay

Posted in 07/03/2023

Pepe, a one-year-old baby chimp rescued from poaching by the CCC, enjoys one of the school sessions in the forest. Photograph: Roberto García Roa

By Roberto García-Roa and Javier Ábalos, Photography by Roberto García-Roa / The Guardian – Jan 20, 2023 

Western chimpanzees are on the brink of extinction, categorised by the IUCN as critically endangered. Photojournalist and scientist Roberto García Roa has been working with the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in Guinea, one of the few international institutions trying to protect this group of apes, and the only one that releases rescued chimpanzees into the wild – a project now in danger

Pepe is starting to be fond of school. He often struggles to stay focused, since engaging in rough-and-tumble play with his new peer, Michelle, is much more fun. This baby chimp belongs to the most endangered subspecies of chimpanzees – western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus).

At a very young age, he became an orphan when his mother was killed by poachers. For the group of resident orphans at the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) in Guinea, “going to school” means daily excursions into the lush forests of the High Niger national park, where caregivers teach them the skills they will need to navigate the challenging environment and the complex social lives of their wild counterparts. It takes several years before the young chimpanzees are ready to be released, and successful recovery is far from granted.


The full article, with all the photos, can be read at


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