New Special Reporting Project: Great Apes

Great apes are balanced on the knife-edge of extinction. Mountain gorillas, Cross River gorillas, western and eastern lowland gorillas, and Sumatran, Bornean and Tapanuli orangutans are all now listed as Critically Endangered; chimpanzees and bonobos are Endangered. These species are in a fight for their lives that will play out over this century. They face bad odds and massive threats including rapid wholesale deforestation due to industrial agriculture — especially oil palm production — logging, mining, energy production, and the pressures of rapid human population growth in Asia and Africa. Projections of human development patterns indicate that ninety percent of great ape habitat will be disturbed by humans by 2030 — making action now imperative.


Mongabay is launching a Great Apes SRP (special reporting project) article series, to be published in the last quarter of 2018 through June 2019, bringing public attention to these issues.

We’re looking for well written news stories that analyze individual threats; that profile trailblazing great ape scientists and conservationists; or that feature innovative solutions — ranging from community involvement and empowerment, to more effective law enforcement (think drones, camera traps), and more. Articles can highlight case studies, key new findings, and stories of great ape conservation across Asia and Africa. Articles published under previous versions of the series can be viewed here.

The stories will appear first on Mongabay, but authors will be encouraged to also sell their stories to third party media outlets, both mainstream publications and industry publications. Journalists can work from anywhere in the world. This series has some funds available for travel.


  • Profile the wildlife trade: These stories will look at the great ape bushmeat and pet trade. In Africa, for example, such trade often takes place amidst intense civil unrest and lawlessness, with armed groups setting up hunting camps to harvest great apes. While adults are killed as bushmeat, their young are often simultaneously hunted for the exotic pet trade, with sales facilitated on the Internet. Stories can be an overview of the trade or cover an aspect of it, and can focus on just one species or multiple species. One possibility is to show how the trade in great apes is linked to organized crime and arms, drug and human trafficking. Other topics welcome.
  • Wildlife trade solutions: These stories would focus on means to curbing the trade, including: case studies that show ways of expanding public awareness of great ape trafficking and of mobilizing resources especially in range and destination countries; the creation of national customs units to fight environmental crime; improved means of detection, enforcement and prosecution of trafficking; ways that range and destination countries and conservation NGOs are partnering to confiscate, reclaim and repatriate trafficked great apes. Stories can profile scientists, conservationists, policy makers or law enforcement professionals working to find innovative solutions to the trade.
  • Great ape survival plans: Individual stories, or a series of stories that cover the immediate, medium, and long-term actions that need to be taken to ensure particular species or sub-species of critically endangered and endangered great apes — lowland gorillas, mountain gorillas, bonobos, the Sumatran orangutan, etc. — in order to assure viable populations in the wild from now to the end of the century. This story would involve interviewing and surveying the top experts for each species reported on to gain their expert views.
  • Other threats; Industrial agriculture: Agribusiness (especially the oil palm industry in Indonesia and, more recently, in Africa) is having a huge impact on great apes via deforestation (habitat loss and fragmentation). Articles would analyze a particular great ape species, a specific crop or agricultural technique (uncontrolled slash-and-burn forest clearing, for example, which leads to wildfires), a country, community, or specific agricultural problem; would profile scientists and conservationists working on the issue; and/or offer a range of innovative solutions.
  • Other threats; logging, energy development: A variety of major human pressures ranging from legal and illegal logging, energy infrastructure construction, and large scale mining operations, and even the pressures of a growing ecotourism industry, all pose threats to the future of great apes. Articles would focus on a specific threat and scientists or conservationists who are addressing that threat with innovative solutions.
  • Other threats: human-great ape conflicts: An exploding human population in places like East Africa, coupled with extreme rural poverty, means that great apes are increasingly endangered by coming into proximity with humans — with gorillas raiding crops, for example, or a growing ecotourism industry putting pressure on chimpanzees. This close association (which facilitates hunting for bush meat and trafficking for the pet trade, while also exposing great apes to human diseases) puts great apes at serious risk. Articles could include case studies, scientist/conservationist profiles, etc.
  • Other topics: Mongabay is open to hearing your great ape pitch, even if it falls outside the specific topics listed here. For example, we will consider pitches focused on African or Asian lesser apes, such as gibbons, especially if those stories show how conservation strategies being utilized with lesser apes might also be employed with great apes.


Each article will be 1,200 to 2,000 words long (stories are paid on a per word basis, up to a maximum of 2,000 words), and will include quotes from at least 3 to 4 original interviews obtained in person or via email, phone or Skype. Authors will be expected to hunt down 8-10 publishable photos to accompany their articles (likely provided by the researchers, or found on Wiki Commons Images): photos of the species being covered, of habitats, of scientists at work, etc. All articles need to include a list of numbered pictures with suggested numbered captions and photo credits. Additional payment is available for contributors able to provide original video to accompany stories.

All applications must be submitted in English, and all final reporting will be published first in English. All final reporting could potentially be translated into another language and published by Mongabay.

Please submit your Great Apes pitch here, along with your journalism resume and three clips. Pitches should not exceed one cleanly formatted page. Pitches should indicate whether they are for any of the above possible topics or other. They should clearly explain the proposed story subject and angle, list a few potential sources, and include an itemized estimate of any travel funding needed to complete the project. Please note that travel funds are limited.