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Going Ape

Premieres: Southeast Asia on Nov 21 at 10:00 pm

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The apes that inhabit the rainforest in Cameroon, West Africa, are under threat. Logging has deprived thousands of apes of their homes, while poaching has further decimated populations. GOING APE is the story of 50 chimpanzees, 26 gorillas, seven baboons and four mandrills who have been orphaned by the bush meat trade in the West African country of Cameroon. GOING APE follows their plight, paralleled in the lives of their keepers - a group of passionate individuals who have dedicated their lives to saving these intelligent beasts. 

What do chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and humans have in common? They are all members of the same family, Hominidae, collectively known as the great apes. Most ape species - except humans - are endangered. Ironically, it is humans who are responsible for the apes' dismal statistics through activities such as logging and poaching. But the front line rescue workers of the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund are intent on saving these animals. Meet Rachel Hogan, Talila Sivan, Sheri Speede and Babila Tafon. All volunteers, these individuals have an uphill task of rescuing the orphaned apes before the poachers get to them.

GOING APE follows the team as they work tirelessly to save the apes - from going undercover in Cameroon's bush meat markets to rehabilitating the apes to changing the mindsets of people. Joining them along the way are other individuals including vets, ape experts, a plastic surgeon, and an ex-gorilla hunter.

The series also chronicles the lives of the orphaned apes and their fight for survival. Nino is a four year old chimpanzee who had half his face ripped off in a savage attack by an older male grieving for his dead baby. Gah is a baby chimpanzee found paralysed in the back of a drug dealer's car. Shufai is a baby gorilla riddled with shotgun pellets that killed his mother. Will they make it back to the wild? Will they even survive?

GOING APE brings you the tales of friendship, jealousy, hierarchy, love intrigue, politics and play - both among the apes, and their human protectors.

GOING APE episode descriptions: 

Episode 1: Battlefront
In this programme, cameras follow a team from the Limbe Wildlife Centre as they try to confiscate Alex, a 13-year-old chimp who has spent her life chained to a burnt out car. In Mefou National Park, sanctuary manager Rachel Hogan keeps vigil over a 1-year-old baby gorilla brought in, riddled with the shotgun pellets that killed his mother. Can the sanctuary find a hospital prepared to examine a gorilla and more importantly, can the gorilla find the will to live? Meanwhile a tree collapses in a storm, crushing a fence of one of the forest enclosures, causing 19 chimpanzees escape. Surrounded by thousands of hectares of forest, the centre's staff has their work cut out.

Episode 2: Knife Edge
This programme closely follows Shufai, a baby gorilla who was orphaned by hunters who killed his mother for her meat. He's in desperate need of surgery but for vet Sheri Speede, conditions are basic - an emergency operation takes place on the kitchen table. An ex-gorilla hunter who's killed hundreds of the world's most endangered primates, goes undercover in one of Cameroon's bush meat markets. We also see how the keepers cope with trying to capture 19 escaped chimps back into the safety of their forest enclosure.

Episode 3: Friend or Foe?
In this episode of GOING APE, baby gorilla Shufai makes it back to the forest after his operation and for the first time since his mother was killed by hunters, he meets another gorilla.  And it's a race to save Nino, a four year old chimpanzee who was savagely attacked by an older male grieving for his dead baby.

Episode 4: Friend or Foe?
Things take a turn for the worse when orphaned baby gorilla Shufai has a seizure. He's raced from the rainforest into the Cameroonian capital in search of medical help. He's got meningitis.  At the Limbe Wildlife centre the illegal owner of a pet chimpanzee escapes prison by having to confront the facts of his crime. And after years of political wrangling, the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund have the permission to move a group of chimps out of the city zoo and back into the forest.

Episode 5: Hope
GOING APE continues to follow the stories of the great ape orphans caught up in West Africa's illegal bush meat and pet trades.  In this episode, viewers meet Gah, a baby chimp found paralysed in the back of a drug dealer's car. His plight seems hopeless but vet Felix Lankester has some unusual ways of trying to get the chimp to walk. On the edge of the rainforest in Mefou National Park, manager Rachel Hogan loses all faith in the experts when a team of firemen manage to destroy a year's work in one foul stroke. And after having half his face ripped off by an older male, four-year-old chimp Nino discovers he likes TV - something that helps him bond with Talila Sivan, director of the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund. But the shy chimp causes trouble when he takes up refuge, eight feet high on an air conditioning unit - for four days!

Episode 6: Help
Nino, the chimpanzee whose face was ripped off by an older male chimp will die unless Vet Sheri Speede's appeal for international help is successful. Britain's top animal plastic surgeon may have a solution. Shufai, the baby gorilla blasted with shotgun pellets when hunters killed his mother, begins his separation from Rachel as he learns to be a gorilla once more.  But it's not an easy journey for the one-year-old orphan.

Episode 7: No Going Back
Its 6 weeks since new chimp mum Yao and her baby Miko escaped from the safety of their sanctuary in Mefou National Park. They've been living in the surrounding forest, which is littered with the traps and snares of local villagers who rely on the forest for their food. But when they're finally caught, it all goes wrong for Miko. At the Sanaga Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Centre in the heart of the rain forest, they don't have the luxury of electricity. And that means an hour's drive on rough tracks to the nearest fridge where their medicines can be kept cool. But on a routine trip they arrive to find town closed.  Baby gorilla Shufai leaves Rachel forever as he takes the next step on his journey back to the forest.

Episode 8: Last Chance
Chimpanzee Yao is a first time mum but a day's separation from her baby, Miko has led to her rejecting the little 12 week old.  Sanctuary staff do everything they can to reunite the pair and re-ignite Yoa's maternal instincts. But can they succeed. At the Limbe Wildlife Centre Gah, the chimp who was found paralysed in a drug smuggler's car faces the greatest test of his rehabilitation. Chimps are social animals so it's important he becomes part of a group but with only partial mobility how will he cope against the 2-year-old nursery bully, Eve?  Also Alex, the chimpanzee who spent her whole life in solitude chained to a burnt out car meets Jo-Jo, a powerful, aggressive male.

Episode 9:  Facing Fear
Sanctuary manager, Rachel Hogan is terrified. She can handle gorillas and chimpanzees without a problem, but in England she has to deliver a speech to more intimidating primates: ape experts from all over the world. Rejected baby chimp Miko begins life with a surrogate mother. And Nino, the chimpanzee who's face was ripped off by an older male is taken back to his group and the scene of the attack. He's always been withdrawn and no-one knows how he will react. The journey makes him panic so it's not looking good by the time the door is opened onto his enclosure and his old friends.
Episode 10:  Eating Apes
Eating apes is not only acceptable in parts of the world; it's a status symbol. Vet Sheri Speede wants to challenge people's attitudes and uses music to spread the message that if people don't stop eating chimpanzees and gorillas, they will be extinct in 15 years. A lot has to change. As one ape meat seller says, it might be sad that my children won't know what these creatures look like but I have no other way to make my living. And while Sheri is away from her sanctuary at Sanaga Yong, one of her chimps escapes.  It's a race to get him back behind the safety of the 9v electrified fence. The surrounding forest is home to wild chimps who won't take kindly to a strange male in their territory. If they see him, they're likely to kill him.

Episode 11:  Free At Last
Bertie & Ashmael are two chimpanzees who have had an awful life. After their parents were slaughtered in front of them they were sold as pets. Most likely to make him submissive, Bertie had his ears sliced off. When the pair became too big and too much to handle they were dumped at the city zoo and there they lived for 10 years, in a tiny concrete cell. But today they're about to be released into a huge, new forest enclosure. How will they react? It's not how you'd think. And at the Limbe Wildlife Centre the government have just delivered two confiscated pet primates: a psychotic adult baboon tied up in a tiny cage and a miserable female chimpanzee chained to a log. But the sanctuary has a problem: they're full.

Episode 12: When They're Gone
Caroline is a chimpanzee who is dying. She's in urgent need of help but it's help that no-one is prepared to give her. She needs to be scanned to find out what's wrong but in Africa the only places with the right equipment are hospitals and they simply won't accept non-human primates. Vet technician Babila Tafon and Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund Director, Talila Sivan fight for her rights and for her life. And there's a new vet in the forest. She's never been to Africa and she's never touched an ape but no sooner has she arrived than Kim Damme is faced with an emergency. She learns pretty quickly what it means to be a vet in the jungle.

Episode 13: A New Life
In the last episode of a moving series Rachel is out buying a pregnancy test kit. But it's not for her, it's for her oldest gorilla, Gerry. You have to feel sorry for Bruno her keeper though, he's the one left to get the gorilla's urine sample.  Rachel has mixed feelings about the test results. Two pet chimpanzees are rescued from their isolated lives of misery and torment. They meet at the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund's forest sanctuary in Mefou National Park. Theirs is a story to warm even the coldest of hearts. And Shufai, the one year old gorilla, starts life in the nursery. When he arrived 3 months ago he was nearly dead, riddled with a hunter's shotgun pellets. His name means 'courageous one' and as he walks into an enclosure full of gorillas for the first time, you can see it's a name that fits.