Gillie and Marc were lucky enough to meet the babies of three of the great ape species, chimps, orangutans and gorillas, in the wild and they were surprised how similar they really are to us. These sweet little babies were just as cheeky as human babies and were very attached to their mums. Gillie and Marc could see them grasp onto things, the same way that human babies do, testament to our evolutionary past. We also noticed that the hands of gorilla are very similar to human hands, a beautiful reminder that even physically, we are still from the same family.
ABOUT THE ANIMAL
The great apes - chimpanzee, orangutan, gorillas, and bonobos - are our closest relatives. We share 98% of our DNA with them so, unsurprisingly, we also share many of the same personality traits! They are a part of our family, and families look out for one another. We have to protect them before we lose one of our own!
Gorillas and chimps are also very intelligent and use tools just like we do. They show the same emotions like laughter and sadness, and use facial expressions, gestures and sounds to communicate, just like humans! They have both been taught basic human sign language showing they can think and express their basic needs in the same way humans can. Seeing the empathy and love that these beautiful apes expressed, moved Gillie and Marc to tears. It was one of the most magical moments of their lives to see how these family units loved and cared for one another, a moment that everyone in the world should experience for themselves.
To make the connection even deeper, chimps and humans are thought to share a common ancestor from 4-8 million years ago. That means we are definitely family, distant cousins! In the Malay language, orangutan means “person of the forest”. The Malay people have obviously seen this similarity with ourselves too!
The similarities between us are clear, we are family. Just as you would help your family through rough times, we must help the great apes escape the threat of extinction. Because that’s what families do for each other, we love each other and look out for one another.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The chimpanzee is our closest living relative, sharing about 99 % of our DNA. It’s even thought that we have a common ancestor who lived sometime between 7-13 million years ago! Through the iconic research of Jane Goodall and the many others who have followed in her footsteps, we have been able to see some of the magical similarities between us and chimpanzees. We all have our own unique personalities, are incredibly social, can learn basic sign-language, and, most importantly use and make tools. This particular discovery of tool usage was so shocking it led the famous Dr Louis Leakey to declare, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans.”
But despite this amazing connection, humans are the biggest threats to our cousins. Chimpanzees are now endangered because of our actions. Because of major increases in human populations, miles and mile s of their habitat is being destroyed, clearing space for city expansion, agriculture, roads, logging, and mining. This is making it harder and harder for the chimps to survive, forcing them to live in smaller and smaller spaces and putting a major strain on food options. This issue over food, in particular, has led to human-chimpanzee conflict. In their desperation to find enough to eat, the chimps are forced to come to human settlements to steal food, mainly easy to grab things such as fruit, but when things are really tough, they have been known to take children. Families retaliate by killing the chimps to stop any other attacks.
Chimps are also targeted by bushmeat hunters as they provide plenty of meat compared to other smaller animals. The hunters are also known to take the young in as their pets o r sell them on the illegal pet trade, a lifestyle that is never suitable for a wild animal .
With DNA so similar to our own it is not surprising that chimpanzees are susceptible to many of the same diseases that we are. Since the 1980s, Ebola has been a major threat killing hundreds of thousands of chimpanzees. More recently it has been found that they are also susceptible to Covid-19, a threat that has, thankfully, not yet had a devastating effect for our cousins.
There is so much we can learn from chimpanzees which in return, will help to unveil many of the secrets of ourselves. But for this, we must protect them before it’s too late. We must make room in our world for our cousins to flourish. Because only when we learn to live together will we all truly thrive.
ABOUT THE SCULPTURE
Now, 28 adorable chimps are coming to London! Expertly crafted in everlasting bronze, these beautiful primates that helped to change our understanding of our closest relatives, and even ourselves will now be brought to life in a monumental public art project for conservation, the most important wildlife sculpture on the planet.
For the first time ever all the behaviours of chimpanzees are brought to life like never before. Hugely confronting, it makes the public question who we are and our relationship to the wild, bringing the life of the jungle to the heart of London. 28 chimpanzees, each expertly crafted in everlasting bronze will showcase a different side of chimp-life. Each will display the real behaviour of chimpanzees giving a snapshot into their world which most people would never have been able to experience. The central sculpture will show a chimp using a tool to fish for termites. This was the first image seen by Jane Goodall that changed the scientific understanding and the way humans saw the natural world. Surrounding this chimp will be the other vast range of behaviours, from nest making to grief.
The 28 will show the huge range of chimpanzee behaviours and cover all ages, from newborn to elderly. They will each show unique personalities with their own back story. The chimps will be waiting ready to invite people to sit beside them, offering a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with our closest relatives. This will be the only chance people will get to touch, feel, cuddle and get up close to a chimp and see how similar they are to us.
For the past 30 years, Gillie and Marc have studied chimpanzees in Africa. Gillie was born in Africa and spent her childhood sketching the animals she saw while Marc travelled to Africa in his 20’s to Gombe Stream. Since then, they have travelled to Africa many times to study the magnificent African wildlife. With the thousands of sketches and photographs they took on their travels, Gillie and Marc have brought to life our closest relatives based on the chimps they met.
Each of the chimps will be displayed with a QR code where the public can learn all about the individual chimpanzee. The public will be able to find important information surrounding conservation, spreading enthusiasm and action for the important work needed to protect the chimps.
This sculpture brings about the idea that it is possible for the world to live in togetherness with chimps. It is possible to share the world, rather than just claiming it as our own. This sculpture invites the people of London to get up close with our closest relatives and fall in love.
This is a unique form of conservation, creative awareness to encourage the love of wildlife with all donations going chimpanzee conservation. This is a must-see exhibition for every single human on the planet and the most important piece of public art for 2021.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while studying, the public will be able to meet individual animals. This will help them to realise that there are apes with unique personalities, thoughts and emotions. The loss of one individual is just as devastating as losing an individual human.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save the great apes.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast and #ChimpsAreFamily to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe. To help protect the great apes you can give a donation to WWF by adopting a chimp: https://www.wwf.org.uk