30.10.2012 - UNESCOPRESS

Great apes on brink of extinction Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Council meeting

© M. Graye, IGCP. Mother and child Mountain Gorillas, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Are the great apes about to disappear? The Great Apes’ Survival Partnership (GRASP) was created in 2002 to avert this danger. The Council of GRASP—coordinated by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and UNESCO—will hold its second meeting at UNESCO Headquarters from 6 to 8 November to define a new strategy to protect these endangered primates, whose numbers have continued to decline.

Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans in equatorial Africa and south-east Asia are facing growing threats posed by bushmeat hunters and primate traders, war, encroachment on forest ecosystems, climate change and diseases such as the Ebola virus. This has led to a steep drop in the number of primates and the fragmentation of their habitat, leaving populations scattered in small and increasingly vulnerable groups. In fact all the great apes feature on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Council will envisage ways to reinforce the fight against illicit trafficking; the use of modern technology—tracking devices to follow the movement of poachers, mobile applications to reduce the demand for palm oil whose expanding cultivation encroaches on the habitat of the great apes—stepping up the sharing of experience between stakeholders, and the development of green tourism in protected areas and more.

Some two hundred participants are expected to attend the meeting including: Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International, Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primates Specialist Group, and patron of GRASP; Ian Redmond, Chairman, Ape Alliance; John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, former Environment Minister of Costa Rica; and Mary Humphrey, President of the Jane Goodall Institute.

GRASP was launched in 2001 as the Great Apes Survival Project under the auspices of UNEP to safeguard viable populations and their habitat. During the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Durban the project became a partnership associating around 100 members: United Nations agencies, governments of the great apes’ range, and representatives of both civil society and the private sector. Together, UNESCO and UNEP are in charge of running GRASP.

The first intergovernmental meeting on great apes took place in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 2005 and led to the signing of the Kinshasa Declaration in which great ape range States committed to do all that is necessary to protect the primates.


Journalists wishing to cover the meeting must obtain accreditation.

Contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service:  + 33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org

See also: UNEP/UNESCO orangutan project in Indonesia



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