Central and West Africa
This shy 12-year-old chimp loves living in the tranquillity of her forest with her family. She has decided to stay with her mother rather than finding a new community, helping to care for her siblings and teach them everything she knows. She loves the peaceful moments with her friends and gets out of the way quick sharp when the alpha starts throwing his weight around. But the alpha isn’t the only one she’s learnt to run from, there’s something far more dangerous; humans.
The chimpanzee is our closest living relative, sharing about 99% of our DNA. It’s even thought that we have a common ancestor who lived sometime between 7-13 million years ago! Through the iconic research of Jane Goodall and the many others who have followed in her footsteps, we have been able to see some of the magical similarities between us and chimpanzees. We all have our own unique personalities, are incredibly social, can learn basic sign-language, and, most importantly use and make tools. This particular discovery of tool usage was so shocking it led the famous Dr Louis Leakey to declare, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans.”
A chimpanzee will usually only give birth to one baby at a time. The babies are completely helpless and the level of love and care given by the mother is crucial for a healthy baby. For the first 30 days of their life, the baby will cling to their mother's belly and will move on to riding on their backs at 5 or 6 months. They start to be able to move around independently by the age of 2 and by 4-6 are weaned. As young chimps, they will still stay with their mothers for up to 9 years. Until then, the mother will play with her baby and teach them all the important skills needed for being a chimp.
Chimps are incredibly social creatures. They have intricate connections between the different members of their community, touching, cuddling, and sometimes fighting with each other. Grooming is an incredibly important part of chimp life. Not only is it important to stay clean and tidy, but it’s also a fantastic way to strengthen bonds, build alliances, and relax. Chimps can spend a few minutes and even up to a few hours grooming each other, maintaining friendly ties between the community. The important bonds between chimpanzees can also be seen when the grieve for their dead. Those who were closest to the deceased are visibly more upset and spend a lot more time in the process of mourning. Mothers will carry their dead babies around; others will groom their friend. This shows their diverse and complex emotions, and most importantly, their ability to love.
Chimpanzees are now endangered because of our actions. Because of major increases in human populations, miles and miles of their habitat is being destroyed, clearing space for city expansion, agriculture, roads, logging, and mining. This is making it harder for the chimps to survive, forcing them to live in smaller and smaller spaces and putting a major strain on food options. This issue over food, in particular, has led to human-chimpanzee conflict. In their desperation to find enough to eat, the chimps are forced to come to human settlements to steal food, mainly easy to grab things such as fruit, but when things are really tough, they have been known to take children. Families retaliate by killing the chimps to stop any other attacks. Chimps are also targeted by bushmeat hunters as they provide plenty of meat compared to other smaller animals. The hunters are also known to take the young as their pets or sell them on the illegal pet trade, a lifestyle that is never suitable for a wild animal. With DNA so similar to our own it is not surprising that chimpanzees are susceptible to many of the same diseases that we are. Since the 1980s, Ebola has been a major threat killing hundreds of thousands of chimpanzees.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtag #LoveTheLast to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/