Ape extinction, particularly great ape extinction, is one of the most widely held biodiversity concerns.
There are very few breeding populations of the great apes outside captivity, and all such populations are not only formally classified as endangered species, but in the direct path of human deforestation and development, especially in Indonesia and the Congo. They are also hunted by humans, as part of the growing African "bushmeat" trade, which has spread to African cities. Wars and civil unrest, e.g. in the Congo basin, play a role in making effective conservation measures risky or even impossible.
As extinction has caused social groups of apes to disintegrate, losing many key adult members (according to researchers close to these groups) and leaving many ape children orphaned, pressure has also mounted to save these species.
The United Nations appointed Jane Goodall, the primatologist most closely associated with chimpanzees and author of many longitudinal studies of chimp life over a forty-year period, as an Ambassador. Goodall has been a consistent advocate of great ape personhood, that is, treating all hominids as "persons", and not as "animals".
Recently in August 2008, in the northern part of the Republic of Congo, 125,000 Western lowland gorillas were alive and well. This is great news for the conservation of Western Lowland gorillas as their numbers were declining rapidly. Though this is a very big victory, the conservation for these animals must continue as they are still vulnerable to bush meat and ebola.