The Guardian's Adam Vaughan writes an interesting article this week about whether the Hollywood blockbuster 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' can help save our planet's endangered primates? It will certainly be worth noting the conservation impact that the computer-generated apes in the Planet of the Apes prequel could achieve more than decades worth of primate conservation?
The chimpanzee unhooks a loft hatch, swings itself around to climb up, then leaps cheerfully from beam to beam. Later, he sits reading books and drawing and, later still, responds to an inhuman primate "rescue centre" by leading a rebellion, side by side with a gorilla and an orangutan.
In this prequel to Planet of the Apes, out at the weekend, there are no monkey suits - just amazing computer-generated images of apes that are so good that I forgot they were CGI. Using a combination of anthropomorphism and the delight the apes take in exerting their physical abilities, the film's creators do a good job of making their audience empathise with these species, our closest living relatives.
It led me to wonder: can computer-generated apes achieve more than conservationists?
Despite decades of campaigning by specialist NGOs and massive international organisations like WWF, the numbers of our apes are still declining, with only some, such as mountain gorillas, stabilising in number. Of the 14 "great ape" taxonomic groups such as the bonobo, Sumatran orangutan and eastern chimpanzee, 10 are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, and the other four are critically endangered.
One of the few things the film and reality have in common is that humanity is the threat.
Orangutan translates literally as "person of the forest". The problem is that we're chopping down those forests, often for one of the key ingredients in margarine, cereals and biscuits. Natural rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are being cleared so rapidly for palm oil plantations that up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022, with the lowland homes of orangutans going much sooner, according to a 2007 UN report.
The conservationist and scientists tasked with mapping the great apes warn that we're sleepwalking into this disaster, which interestingly they couch almost as a case of a lack of empathy:
Their lives are priceless, of themselves; but their loss will mark us evermore – that knowing so much as we did, still we bowed to our blind hungers, and failed to spare our nearest kin.
Hollywood does, obviously, deal with wildlife and the threats to it. But in recent memory, it's usually been through non-fiction: Crimson Wing for flamingoes, or The Cove for dolphins. "Rise..." is unusual for putting animal rights and survival at the heart of a piece of fiction. While it isn't explicitly about conservation, its mainstream appeal and emotional punch might reach and inspire people that the traditional 'green' groups can't.
For the original article please visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/aug/15/rise-planet-apes-endangered-primates