Over the years I have vacillated on the idea and need for a year end review and New Year prognosis. This year I’m onboard, and here’s why.
History is important. Looking back with an unflinching critical eye is paramount to creating change. Understanding and accepting failure is part of historical honesty. Learning and solutions are by-productions of that honesty. Increasingly this project has taught me that, it has been a general disregard for the history of a place, the human patterns of behavior therein as well as the history of shared global places that has threatened and cost great ape lives, habitat and, perhaps most importantly, our inability to change the trajectory of the future. The re-listing of both Bornean orangutans and Grauer’s gorillas to the Critically Endangered list by IUCN in 2016 is clear evidence of that.
Over the first week of 2017 I’ll share my 2016 historical review in individual posts on each of the great ape species—gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos— as well as habitat destruction, palm oil, RSPO, Ebola, wildlife trafficking, GRASP-UN, NGO disfunction, the future of sanctuaries, and corruption. All have been reoccurring themes in 2016.
In thinking about an image to post as a header for this brief piece, nothing seemed more apropos than the see no, hear no, say no evil “monkeys” (actually they are chimps.) These three chimps sum up 2016, and the current state of great apes and habitat protection: don’t see the disaster happening all around, don’t hear about the failures, and don’t harshly criticize inaction.
We traditionally usher in a New Year with a warm “Here’s to a better New Year”. In the conservation community it’s also a time highlight the victories and to pat ourselves on the back and say, “look at all we’ve accomplished”. Self-congratulations may help development departments increase year end donations, but in the real world of great ape survival we’re none the richer. For that we need more critical honesty about how we are failing, otherwise in 2017 some of the most extraordinary fellow Earthlings will slide twelve months closer towards what IUCN noted as “only one step away from going extinct”.
— Gerry Ellis
Notes & Sources