Great Apes Of The World

The great apes are more diverse – and more threatened – than many of us ever expected. We recognize 14 kinds of great ape: four subspecies of gorillas, four chimpanzees and the singular bonobo, all found in Africa, plus five kinds of orangutans known from tropical Asia. Altogether the gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobo occur in 21 African nations; of the orangutans, one species occurs in northernmost Sumatra, and the other (divided into three subspecies) survives on the island of Borneo.

Along with all other primates, the great apes are included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive survey of threats to our world’s biodiversity. The Red List provides conservation assessments for a tremendous array of threatened species – and it shows that the great apes are in near-universal decline. Only the mountain gorillas are not declining in number, so they are listed as Endangered, while the Cross River gorilla, the western lowland gorilla, the Sumatran orangutan and the Tapanui orangutan are listed as Critically Endangered.

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African Great Apes
Family Hominidae

Pan paniscus

Democratic Republic of Congo Endangered

Central Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes troglodytes

Angola, Cameroon,
Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo,
Equatorial Guinea, Gabon,
Republic of Congo

Eastern Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii

Burundi, Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo,
Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania,

Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes ellioti

Cameroon, Nigeria Endangered

Western Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes verus

Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau,
Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone
(possibly extinct in Benin and Burkina Faso; extinct in Togo)
Critically Endangered

Cross River Gorilla
Gorilla gorilla diehli

Cameroon, Nigeria Critically Endangered

Grauer's Gorilla
Gorilla beringei graueri

Democratic Republic of Congo Critically Endangered

Mountain Gorilla
Gorilla beringei beringei

Democratic Republic of Congo,
Rwanda, Uganda

Western Lowland Gorilla
Gorilla gorilla gorilla

Angola, Cameroon,
Central African Republic,
Equatorial Guinea, Gabon,
Republic of Congo
Critically Endangered

Asian Great Apes
Family Pongidae

Sumatran Orangutan
Pongo abelii

Indonesia (Sumatra) Critically Endangered

Northeast Bornean Orangutan
Pongo pygmaeus morio

Indonesia, Malaysia Critically Endangered

Northwest Bornean Orangutan
Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus

Indonesia, Malaysia Critically Endangered

Southwest Bornean Orangutan
Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii

Indonesia (Borneo) Critically Endangered

Tapanuli Orangutan
Pongo tapanuliensis

Indonesia (Sumatra) Critically Endangered

These tables were compiled by Anthony Rylands, whose original summary included additional comments on great ape taxonomy.