A network of resource management areas (RMAs) exists across tropical Africa to protect natural resources. However, many are poorly managed and weakly protected. We evaluated how the lack of conservation effort influences the extinction risk of African great apes. We compiled information on presence/absence of primary (law enforcement guards) and secondary (tourism, research) conservation activities and nongovernmental conservation organizations (NGOs) support for 109 RMAs over the last 20 years. Along with these data, we collected environmental and anthropogenic variables, including recent records of ape presence/absence for all RMAs. As expected, law enforcement as a primary activity was the best predictor of ape survival rather than tourism or research as secondary activities. Furthermore, long-term NGO support had a significant positive influence on ape persistence. Our study demonstrates the feasibility of evaluating the relative importance of different conservation activities, an important step towards more evidence-based approaches in ape conservation.