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Globe Trekker: Planet of the Apes

This Globe Trekker Special is all about our fellow primates – lemurs, monkeys, and apes. In Planet of The Apes, hosts Ian Wright, Megan McCormick, Justine Shapiro, Zoe Palmer, Holly Morris, Eils Nevitt, Nikki Grosse, and Zay Harding, travel across Africa, Asia and South America, visiting the last strongholds of many rare and endangered species.

Man’s closest relatives amongst the primates are apes, with whom we share over 95% of our DNA.  In Ian Wright at the Orangutan Wildlife Centre, SepilokThailand, Justine Shapiro sees how the world’s most agile ape, the White-Handed Gibbon, is being protected.

In Borneo and Sumatra, Holly Morris, Megan McCormick and Ian Wright, get close up and personal with Asia’s largest ape, the Orangutan – the largest tree-living animal in the world.

In Tanzania and Zambia, we travel to see man’s nearest relative of all, the Chimpanzee. And, in the remote mountains of Uganda, we trek to find the biggest ape of all, the remarkable Mountain Gorilla, of whom only 600 or so survive in the wild.

Whereas monkeys and apes survive across 3 continents, one group of primates, the lemur exists only on the island of Madagascar. In Ranomafana National Park, Ian Wright sees the elusive Golden Bamboo Lemur, so rare that it wasn’t even discovered until the 1980s.

Another recently discovered species is the Black-Crowned Dwarf Marmoset, first identified in the Amazon jungle in the 1990s. Eils Nevitt travels to the remote region to wonder at this remarkable primate – at less than 6 inches tall, it’s the world’s second smallest monkey.  Monkeys vary enormously in size – the rare and endangered Drills, for example, are almost as big as humans.

In Cameroon, West Africa, Zay Harding witnesses a veterinary operation Orangutan Wildlife Centre, Sepilokon one of the world’s last surviving Drills. In the neighbouring country of Gabon, we trek in search of a related species – the world’s largest monkey, the Mandrill. Mandrills live in the largest groups of any non-human primate, tracking down a huge horde of up to 500 individuals, we get an unprecedented close up sight of these extremely rarely seen monkeys in the wild.

Unlike most primates, Baboons in Africa, and Macaques in Asia, have learned to profit from proximity to humans, and are thriving – we travel to see these opportunistic species in Zambia, Senegal and Thailand.

In general, however, most primates, and virtually all the Great Apes, are today highly endangered as a result of human activity. The cutting down of the rainforests, the bushmeat trade, and the pet trade, all threaten the survival of numerous species.

Planet of The Apes highlights this threat, and features the work of conservationists who are doing what they can to save our closest animal relatives from extinction.

Places Mentioned - Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Zambia

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