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We went to the zoo the other day. Little T is at the age where he hates being in the stroller, meaning, he enjoyed anything that allowed him to crawl around and explore.

Enjoying the zoo.

But I don’t want to talk about our visit. Insead, I want to talk about an issue that weighs heavily on my heart and doesn’t get the attention it needs. Zoo visits are always bittersweet for me. As we wove our way through the primates, I smiled at the sweetness of Little T as he watched the orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos swing and interact with each other. But I can’t stay in that sweet moment for long without wondering, how many of them will not be here for Little T to see as he gets older? Nearly half of all primates are on their way to extinction, and that number is dismally growing.

Primate behaviors are unique and complex. Mother orangutans have such a strong bond with their infants, that they will give their lives for them. Baby orangutans are often captured and sold as pets, and their mothers are killed because they will do anything to protect their babies. The mother’s body parts are often sold next to their infant at the market for meat.

Gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, tamarins, spider monkeys…the extinction list goes on and on. Their habitats are disappearing. They’re being sold for their meat, and they’re being traded illegally as exotic animals-then later killed because they aren’t capable of being domesticated animals.

Howler Monkey in Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica in 2008, I awoke each morning to the voices of the howler monkeys outside our window. Mesmerized with the indescribable sound, I thought about how everyone should have a chance to hear them. Little T’s chances of observing these beautiful animals in their natural habitat are fading. Another time, I sat at the Wild Animal Kingdom and observed a gorilla family for my primatology class. I watched in amusement as the silverback gorilla interacted with his family. He’d playfully put a branch on the head of his mildly irritated mate, then put the branch on his own head and made a silly face. Their family bond was strong, and they looked content and happy together. I could have sat there for hours. Will Little T grow up in a world where they simply don’t exist?

Gorilla at the Wild Animal Kingdom

Please take a moment to learn more about these animals and how you can help save them from becoming extinct. They are too precious to lose.

Jane Goodall Research Institute

Primate Rescue Org

Endangered Species International

Save the Primates

The San Diego Zoo 

A Capuchin in Costa Rica