Great Ape Project


The Great Ape Project (GAP), founded in 1994, is an international organization of primatologists, anthropologists, ethicists, and other experts who advocate a UN ‘Declaration of the Rights of Great Apes’ that would confer basic legal rights on non-human great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. The rights suggested are the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture. The organization also monitors individual great ape activity in the US through a census program. Once rights are established, GAP would demand the release of great apes from captivity; currently 3,100 are held in the U.S., including 1,280 in biomedical research.

The project is founded on the principle that great apes possess rationality and self-consciousness, and the ability to be aware of themselves as distinct entities with a past and future. Documented conversations (in sign languages) with individual great apes are the basis for this tenet. However, their biological similarity with humans is also key to the traits for which they are valuable as research subjects. For example, testing of antibody treatments can not be done in species less similar to humans than chimpanzees.

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