Core Principles

Be Pragmatic: Our ideology is to do what works…

DSC_0509African ape conservation circles are often redolent with almost religious fervor for the ideological flavor of the month: community-based conservation, integrated conservation and development, ranger-based monitoring, ecotourism, ecosystem services…take your pick. At Apes Incorporated, we are agnostic when it comes to these conservation Gods. We have faith only in the scientific method. We base our decisions on empirical data and objective analysis rather than ideology or conventional wisdom.

Bokata eats fruit with blowpipeDemand Excellence: Not just the usual suspects...

The ape extinction crisis is incredibly complex. At Apes Incorporated we are unapologetic in our conviction that transformative solutions will only be achieved if the best and the brightest are brought into the fold. Therefore, in assembling new projects we don’t just search for collaborators within the closed old boy/girl network that dominates African ape conservation. We emphasize expertise over in-group membership: merit over connections. We define what needs to be done then ask “who is best for the job?” Consequently, our collaborators read like a Who’s Who of leading individuals and institutions.

Take Risks: Fear of failure breeds failure…

DSC_0623At Apes Incorporated we understand that, when searching for transformative solutions, achieving a big upside requires risking a big downside. Many gambits may fail before the game-changer is discovered. In this respect, we take our lead from the IT industry, where innovation often emerges from the kind of risk-taking that typifies small startups rather than large multinational corporations. In fact, you can think of us as a sort of conservation startup whose business plan is to have its ideas acquired by the major international NGO’s that are good at “mass production and marketing” but poor at innovation.

Forget Consensus: You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette…

DSC_0621Transformative solutions inherently involve both unconventional thinking that lies outside the average person’s comfort zone and changes in the status quo that are costly to some stakeholders. Consequently, the consensus approach that is now Gospel in ape conservation circles is a recipe for failure. At Apes Incorporated we don’t attempt to build grand alliances by advocating least common denominator policies that offend nobody but do nothing. We look for visionary collaborators who understand that the best project is not the one that pleases the most stakeholders but the one that saves the most gorillas and chimpanzees.

Biological Sustainability Requires Economic Viability: Baby needs new shoes…

DSC_0258At Apes Incorporated we are left-of-center academic types who fervently believe that gorillas and chimpanzees have intrinsic value that transcends any profit they might generate as commodities. However, we are also realists. If we want to protect what we value, we have to recognize that not eating apes and not cutting down their forest imposes a substantial opportunity cost on Central Africans. Somehow, this opportunity cost must be compensated: at least until such time as many more Central Africans adopt our fuzzy bunny views on the intrinsic value of wildlife. Given the many inefficiencies of the foreign aid approach that has to date been the main conduit for compensation in Central Africa, we also need to come up with creative new mechanisms for sustained funding. This will likely involve holding our lefty noses and making nice with the private sector. Because the data suggest that private sector cash and expertise have played a critical role in the most of the handful of true successes in African ape conservation.

Be Transparent: Don’t piss on the turf…

Our riff on Google’s “Don’t be Evil” is “Don’t be Territorial”.