Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

ADI Reports from Kinshasa on united call to save great apes as UNEP/ UNESCO conference opens

Posted: 5 September 2005

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Animal Defenders International (ADI) reports from the UNEP/UNESCO GRASP Conference in Kinshasa, where governments in 23 great ape range states, governments with aid and economic interests and NGOs working for great ape protection, unanimously agree that action to save apes is urgently needed now.

This morning the Intergovernmental Meeting on Great Apes was opened in Kinshasa by President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This remarkable conference draws together representatives of all great ape range states, governments involved with aid and development, and animal protection groups.

In her opening comments, Dr Melanie Virtue, GRASP Team Leader of the Secretariat of UNEP in Kenya, noted: “This was the 11th hour for the great apes.”

Dr Richard Leakey of UN’s GRASP and one of the foremost authorities on wildlife and nature conservation, commented: “When we discuss great apes and their survival, we are talking about members of our own family. We are the sixth great ape. This might make people uncomfortable, but it is the scientific position.” He referred to the impact of climate change that is sweeping through the world, citing Katrina as a prime example, and the devastating impact these changes have on the poorest countries where populations are hungry and in need. He warned, “It is no longer possible for NGOs to apply first aid. Government action is needed if we are to address the survival of great apes in those areas, where people are desperate to survive themselves. Some species face imminent extinction, and even signing the current agreement may be too late for them.”

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, speaking today from Kinshasa, noted: “This conference clearly shows that there is political will to address these problems, but financial resources and a co-ordinated strategy to save these animals is not always in place. We hope that we will finish this week with a genuine commitment from all involved to save our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.” On Friday, 9th September, it is hoped that the Declaration on great apes will be agreed by all participants and be taken up as part of the UK’s ethical foreign policy.

Dr Leakey congratulated President Kabila and the DRC for the “foresight, wisdom and political courage” to launch this initiative, but said that African nations cannot pay for the preservation of the world’s heritage – other countries need to help.

Interviews can be arranged with ADI spokespeople in Kinshasa: Jan Creamer, chief executive and Tim Phillips, campaigns director, who are attending the conference this week. Please see a copy of the Draft Declaration on Great Apes at http://www.ad-international.org

_____________________________ENDS _____________________________
GRASP - Great Apes Survival Project
The Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) Partnership, launched inn 2001, is a new initiative of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to save great apes and their habitat. The GRASP Partnership is an alliance bringing together governmental and intergovernmental, UN institutional, non-governmental, scientific and academic foundations, local community and private sector interests.
Great ape populations are declining at an alarming rate worldwide. The continuing destruction of habitat, in combination with the growth in the commercial bushmeat trade in Africa and increased logging activities in Indonesia, have lead scientists to suggest that the majority of great ape populations may be extinct in our lifetime. Through intergovernmental dialogue and policy making, conservation planning initiatives, technical and scientific support to great ape range state governments, flagship field projects and fund and awareness raising in donor countries, GRASP has a unique role to complement existing great ape conservation efforts.
Click here to read the Draft Declaration on Great Apes

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