Ashley Leiman OBE, director of the Orangutan Foundation, explores the complex relationship between man and our closest relatives – the great apes
Please see here : The Biologist Vol 61(2) p12-16 , for the full article.
" The great apes are often perceived differently to other animals. In many cases, it's the simple physical resemblance – we look alike – that's enough to affect how people think and feel about them. No other group of animal has the same attributes that strike a chord with people: hands with nails, eyes that mirror our own, and rich social and emotional lives. Despite this, the 21st century may see the extinction of one of mankind's closest living relatives...
[ ]...But there are two sides to our perception of apes. While one side emphasises the similarities, the other side emphasises the differences, how the apes are almost but not quite human. This duality occurs across the world, but is perhaps strongest in the west.
[ ]...No one is deliberately trying to wipe out the great apes. The present situation shows little more than a lack of care, both nationally and internationally. This is the point where western and indigenous attitudes to the great apes intersect. The fate of the apes rests finally with the inhabitants of ape-habitat countries, be they individuals, communities or governments. However, the west or developed world has a duty of care, for it's the western world order (and its demand for products and raw materials from ape habitats) that has given rise to so many of the problems the apes face.
"As long as they [apes] are able to roam the earth, hooting, leaping, munching, breaking branches, beating their chests, or simply sitting gazing quietly into the sunset, they will act as a perpetual and vital reminder that we are, after all, little more than brainy, naked apes." (Morris & Morris, 1966). "
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