Purpose - This study addresses the great apes' fatal situation in the wild by integrating perspectives from conservation biology, conflict research, and bioethics. Design/methodology/approach - We introduce the great apes' red list status and describe habitat destruction and bushmeat commerce as main threats to their survival. We analyze the complex context in which great ape extinction takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and thereby focus on a threatening factor that is interlinked with habitat destruction and bushmeat commerce: armed conflict. Findings - The study shows that some characteristics of so-called "New Wars'' are apparent in the DRC and that they directly or indirectly impact the great apes' situation. Because the human role in the animals' extinction is so severe and so obvious, ethical consequences become apparent. Animal ethics (the welfare as well as the rights approach) has to acknowledge the severity of the situation of the great apes in the wild. Implications for the human-animal relationship and the human identity come into play. After all, we have to ask ourselves what it means for us and for coming generations if our nearest relatives are going to be extinct one day. Practical implications - It is argued that conservation policy has to include insights from conflict research. Likewise, peacemaking has to address ecological consequences of warfare. Originality/value - Our findings promote an interdisciplinary approach. Armed conflict as a threatening factor to great ape survival has so far largely been neglected within the literature on conservation biology as well as in conflict research.