Before They're Gone

Before They’re Gone – The Movie

Before They’re Gone is a film about three extraordinary women changing the fate of great apes – each laboring non-stop, against all odds, to ensure their survival. It’s the story of powerful, inspiring female role models; women of dedication, tenacity, and passion, sacrificing everything to save apes and our planet. We will shine a light on their stories and their lives – and with your help – inspire a new generation of young women in conservation and science.

About This Film

About this Film

Amazing unsung heroines. Their time has come.

In the shadow of ape legends –  Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas  – a sisterhood of young women is changing the fate of apes on this planet. Like the legendary women before them, this generation faces poaching, hostile governments, corruption, threats to their lives, environmental destruction, and disease – but to a much greater extent. Increasingly dire circumstances now demand constant activism and action. Yet despite this urgent, uphill battle, they never doubt their ability to affect change. They continue to fight, non-stop, 24/7, all in an unwavering effort to save the apes they love.

Why We Are Making This Film

Why We Are Making This Film

Powerful female role models, who can light the way for new generation of young women in science and conservation.

Why make this film now? Because we are running out of time to inspire a new generation and save great apes. The stories of these extraordinary women must be shared. Women have always been the guardians of the apes, and this moment, more than ever, ape survival is at a critical tipping point. What an inspiration they could be to girls everywhere – girls who, at this very moment, are sitting in small village schools and urban classrooms, girls with strength and passion, and the potential to follow their dreams and change the world. To reach them, we need your help. Will you join us?

Why This Film Matters

Why This Film Matters

We believe in real-world hope. Change is possible.

Not pixie-dust hope, but women saying why not with their actions and lives. Thirty-years ago Gerry embarked on a journey to film and study great apes on this planet. It became obvious that great ape survival would not be possible without the incredible commitment of this new generation of women. Their sacrifices are doing more than saving apes: they are helping to save the planet. Co-producer Tracy, a seasoned passionate filmmaker, joined immediately after her daughter said, “These women give me real-world hope.” (She got goosebumps, which kinda sealed the deal) Tracy has long been committed to primates, wildlife conservation, and honest storytelling. Who better to help share the story of these dedicated, passionate women than another dedicated, passionate woman?

Why We Need Your Support

We Need Your Support

It Really Does Take a Village. Seriously.

We can’t do this alone. Through the YouTube program “Apes Like Us,” we have been able to reach an audience of over 400,000, raising awareness of great apes and the women who protect them. But we’re ready to take this to the next level – a feature length documentary and continued targeted curriculum. We can’t do that without your help. Through this campaign, we need to raise an initial $35,000. Your donation will allow us to:

officially begin filming and editing content for our documentary.
cover the cost of international travel expenses, crew, and post-production for an official promotional trailer, which will be used for grant application and private donor outreach.
funding our continued social media and outreach efforts to reach girls and young women.

By supporting this project, you are becoming a part of it. You, too, will be helping to share the stories of these incredible women, to encourage the next generation of girls in conservation, and to help secure the future of great apes around the globe. We can’t thank you enough for your support, and as an appreciation gift we will send a just-released

Meet Our Heroines

Meet Our Heroines
Rachel Hogan is a primate conservationist, living and working in Cameroon in West Africa, and director of the ape conservation charity Ape Action Africa.
Rachel Hogan

Deep in the wild forests of Cameroon, hunters are poaching large family groups of gorillas and chimpanzees and selling them illegally either for their meat or as exotic pets. These populations might have already been ravaged to extinction were it not for the tireless efforts of big-hearted conservationists working with government and local communities to protect them. For over 15 years, as director of Ape Action Africa, Rachel and her team have been providing a safe haven and recovery facility in Mefou National Park. The facility that has grown to house and feed over 300 primates affected by the gruesome illegal bushmeat trade.

Karmele Llano Sanchez is a veterinarian turned orangutan conservationist living and working in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. She is founder and director of the Yayasan orangutan sanctuary.

Karmele and chimp

Karmele came to Indonesia as a volunteer to London-based International Animal Rescue (IAR) to help with the slow loris poaching crisis, after getting no response from great ape sanctuaries in Africa, where she had applied with hopes of becoming a gorilla vet. In Indonesia near the end of her volunteer commitment, IAR asked her to fly to Ketapang and look at the state of a (three?) young confiscated orangutans. What she found and discovered was needed inspired her and her Indonesian partner to stay and found Yayasan orangutan sanctuary. The sanctuary now houses over 100 orangutans, babies confiscated from poaching and rescues of adults in conflict with palm oil plantations and local farmers. Karmele has now been there 17 years.

Thalita Calvi is a Brazilian veterinarian and chimpanzee conservationist working at Chimfunshi Wildlife Trust Orphanage in northern Zambia.

Thalita Calvi

While the sanctuary’s 130 chimps are Thalita’s primary focus, she is also charged with caring for all of the sanctuary’s wildlife as well as the 700 head of cattle on the neighboring sanctuary ranch. Her insanely inquisitive mind is also tracking the health and well being of everything from frogs and snakes to owl and wild monkeys. Chimfunshi is a huge sanctuary and thus Thalita is a mobile vet constantly on the move across tens of kilometers of landscape. She also is annually engaged in large mammal operations in conjunction with the Zambia wildlife dept.

African Schoolgirls Rapt in Attention

Inspiring Through Action

Rachel, Karmele, and Thalita have ALREADY inspired new young women into conservation, young women who grew up in countries with great apes, and have a complex, informed, and deeply personal relationship with the land, the culture, the apes, and the broader issues of ape survival. You will meet some of these young women in this film as well. Over the next generation they must become the changing face of conservation if great apes have a chance of surviving. Their stories are critical to a deeper understanding of the issues, and serve to inspire girls growing up in a similar paradigm.

Meet Our Team

Meet Our Team


Gerry Ellis

Gerry Ellis/Writer/Director
An award-winning environmental photographer/film-maker – including the prestigious Visa pour L’Image nomination for his work on orphaned baby African elephants, Wild Orphans. Gerry is the creator, videographer and host of the popular YouTube channel Apes Like Us. His work has encompassed numerous long-term projects for National Audubon, World Wildlife Fund, Chevron PNG, and the Australian government. Gerry’s work has appeared in myriad magazine projects for publications including the Audubon, Paris Match, Ranger Rick, New York Times, GEO and National Geographic, as well as award-winning book projects, including Natumi, and Little Larry Learns to Climb by National Geographic Kids Books, and multiple titles in the highly acclaimed children’s series Nature Watch. Gerry is founder and director of the education nonprofit GLOBIO.

Tracy McDonald

Tracy MacDonald, Co-Creator/Writer/Director 
Tracy MacDonald is a multiple Emmy Award nominated producer, writer, and director whose clients include The Discovery Channel, Travelocity, Disney, HBO, Comcast, and PBS. A passionate storyteller and nature lover, Tracy has produced content about a variety of natural locations and environmental topics, including Florida’s coral reef and mangrove habitats, Oregon’s old growth forest, Crater Lake National Park, Mt. St. Helens, and Volcanoes National Park. She believes stories tell themselves, and that her job is to provide a forum, to listen, and to share the experience directly with her viewers . Tracy enjoys working with people from all walks of life, from well known icons to everyday folks, and truly believes everyone has a story worth telling. Tracy is also a mother of three kids and a former Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots leader.

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Ways You Can Help

Donate, share, & share again.

  • Donate to the film. No amount is too small or too great. We truly value every donation, and with your help, we can make this film. Remember, your donation is tax deductible.
  • Follow the film on Instagram and Facebook. Track our progress and give us your feedback. We value your input!
  • Share a link to our film with your social media networks and other contacts. By sharing this film as widely as possible, we not only raise more financial support; we raise greater awareness of the project. This means we make a greater impact on the lives of young women and on great ape conservation, too!
  • Spread the word. Tell your friends. Tell your co-workers. Tell your classmates. Direct them to our film and our social media platforms. The more, the merrier! We love having you along for the ride!

Before They’re Gone — The Blog

Pre-Trailer: Beginning Before They’re Gone

Pre-Trailer: Beginning Before They’re Gone

After weeks of digging through old files, clips, interviews, and oh so much B-roll of great apes, we have just released our new pre-trailer for the Before They’re Gone film. And before I type another word - huge thanks to my co-creator Tracy MacDonald and editor Matt...