April 27, 2012


We talk with the directors of the new film.

Jessica: This is Oscar. He is an impish chimp who lives on leaves, ants and fruit. With the way he behaves, Oscar may never make it to Hollywood but he is already a movie star in the nature film Chimpanzee. It is about Oscar’s life in a forest in the African country of the Ivory Coast.

Tell me more about Oscar.

“Whenever there was trouble, he was at the center of it. At night, they go up into the trees and make nests to avoid leopards. Who was causing trouble? Who was making noise? Who was jumping on his mother? It was always Oscar.”

Jessica: Oscar relies on his mother to crack him nuts and protect him from a rival band of chimps that attacks their camp.

“There was a battle and in the battle, Oscar’s mother was lost. Most chimpanzees that get separated from the group and go lost in the forest will be killed by leopards.”

Jessica: Oscar was alone. No one would take care of him.

“He was visibly getting weaker and weaker by the day.”

Jessica: In a stroke of luck, Oscar was adopted by someone very surprising; the leader of the pack of chimps, known as the alpha male.

“Even the scientists who had spent thirty years studying chimpanzees had never seen anything like it.”

Jessica: Although Oscar survived, many chimps don’t. In the past hundred years, the chimp population has plunged from 2 million to fewer than 200,000 today. Experts warn they could face extinction.

What are some of the threats to chimpanzees?

Alastair: The main threat to chimpanzees is that their forest home is getting cut down. People are chopping down trees to make products we use, like outdoor furniture, decks and paper products. Africans clear the forests for firewood and to grow crops.

Jessica: Alistair and Mark hope that by learning about Oscar, people will be inspired to help all chimpanzees.

There are plenty of things you can do right here in America to save chimps in Africa. If you buy paper products, like tissues and printer paper or wooden items like this cutting board, you can check to see if they have a logo on it like this one. It is issued by the Forest Stewardship Council and means that the trees these items come from were grown in forests that are managed to protect the health and survival of chimps and other endangered species.

There is another threat to the forests where chimps live. It is the mining of rare minerals that are in things we use everyday. And Alistair says you can help with that too.

Alastair: Many of us have mobile phones that use in their battery a mineral — a very rare mineral — that is only found in Africa, so recycling your cell phone, recycling some computer batteries, can be very helpful as well.

Jessica: I wanted to know if Oscars children have a future.

Do you think chimps are going to go extinct?

“There are some encouraging signs but there’s a mountain to climb.  Do we think they’ll go extinct? I hope not. But complacency would pretty much seal their fate.”


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