NEW YORK – September 10, 2019 – Smithsonian Channel is spotlighting the incredible conservation work being done to save great apes in two new films to debut as part of the network’s signature Wild Wednesday lineup. From an island sanctuary giving orphaned and rescued chimpanzees a second chance to a journey through a distant land to save a silverback gorilla and his rainforest, both programs will share the heartwarming yet difficult paths to safeguard these endangered species. Viewers can follow these extraordinary animals and their human allies on Smithsonian Channel’s ISLE OF CHIMPS () and GORILLAS OF GABON ( ).
ISLE OF CHIMPS is a colorful portrait of Uganda’s Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a place where orphaned and rescued chimpanzees – victims of the illegal exotic pet and bushmeat trades – are given a second chance at life in a community of chimps. Ngamba’s staff has the challenging task of integrating new orphans into the community – newcomers, especially males, are not always welcomed, as they can be seen as a threat to existing hierarchies. ISLE OF CHIMPS follows that process at work through the eyes of Ngamba’s youngest orphan, two-year-old Eazy, as he learns how to communicate, eat new foods and make chimp friends. The other critical job for the staff at Ngamba Island is to provide the chimps with stimulating activities, including puzzles and painting, to aid their rehabilitation. But this year, they’re trying something completely different – video cameras.
GORILLAS OF GABON follows a team of trackers searching for Mussiru, an elusive 400-pound silverback western lowland gorilla, in Gabon on the west coast of Africa. Their mission is to habituate him to humans – the future of his bloodline and the rainforest he inhabits depend on it. Traditionally, Gabon’s oil industry has funded conservation of Gabon’s rainforests, protecting endangered animals like Mussiru, but oil extraction has peaked. With revenue potentially drying up, the next resource to extract for cash is the rainforest itself. The country will need a viable tourism industry to save its forests from exploitation, and reliable close encounters with gorillas through ecotourism might just be the way to do it. But time is running out. Learning the secrets to fast-track Mussiru’s habituation to humans will prove difficult. Success is vital if the rainforest and the gorillas themselves are to survive.
ISLE OF CHIMPS is a Lion Television (an All3Media company) co-production with Smithsonian Channel. Richard Bradley and Caterina Turroni serve as executive producers. Joy Galane and David Royle are executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.
GORILLAS OF GABON is produced by EarthTouch and Smithsonian Channel in association with National Geographic. Richard Slater-Jones serves as executive producer. Tria Thalman and David Royle are executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.