Best Practices

Re-introduction of Great Apes

The process of re-introducing great apes may be long, complex, expensive and often fraught with pitfalls. To assist current and future re-introduction projects, the Primate Specialist Group produced these guidelines , designed to provide a framework of simple, practical standards for wildlife professionals working with great ape re-introduction.

Although IUCN has established working protocols for plant and animal re-introduction, the great apes present unique challenges and concerns owing to their singular cognitive development. This prompted the Primate Specialist Group to reconsider the existing guidelines in terms of the specific needs of great apes. The resulting synthesis, representing the expert opinion of primatologists and re-introduction practitioners, is presented here as part of the series of best-practices documents.

Specifically designed for rehabilitators and specialists in re-introduction, these guidelines start from the fundamental assumption that re-introductions should not endanger wild populations of great apes or the ecosystems they inhabit. Equally important is the health and welfare of the individual great apes being re-introduced, as well as the caretaker staff and the residents of the surrounding areas. The re-introduction guidelines also require that the factors which first threatened great apes in the proposed site of release have been addressed and resolved.

For all great ape individuals being considered for re-introduction, the guidelines recommend extensive medical screenings, to protect both the re-introduced individuals and any wild apes they may interact with. Once re-introduced, the apes must be closely monitored for at least a year – a challenge in itself, given the apes’ size, strength and ranging behaviour. This document addresses this and other issues in detail, and the Primate Specialist Group recommends that these guidelines be implemented by all groups and programmes planning great ape re-introduction.

An ammendment to the guidelines for orangutan re-introduction was agreed in 2015:

AMENDMENT to the guidelines for re-introduction of orangutans 04/15 PDF

PDFs of the full re-introduction guidelines are available in English, French and Bahasa Indonesia:

English Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-introduction of Great Apes

Citation: Beck, B., Walkup, K., Rodrigues, M., Unwin, S., Travis, D. and Stoinski, T. 2007. Best Practice Guidelines for the Re-introduction of Great Apes. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.

Français Lignes directrices pour de meilleures pratiques en matière de réintroduction des grands singes

Beck, B., Walkup, K., Rodrigues, M., Unwin, S., Travis, D. et Stoinski, T. (2007). Lignes directrices pour de meilleures pratiques en matière de réintroduction des grands singes. Groupe de spécialistes des primates de la CSE/UICN, Gland, Suisse

Bahasa Indonesia Panduan Re-introduksi Kera Besar

Beck, B., Walkup, K., Rodrigues, M., Unwin, S., Travis, D. dan Stoinski, T. (2009). Panduan Re-introduksi Kera Besar. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.


The Primate Specialist Group gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the publication of this document.