African Nations Boost Gorilla Protection

Found in the vast forests of central Africa, the western
lowland gorilla, like other gorilla species, are under threat
from habitat loss and poaching.

A new agreement endorsed by nine African countries to
better protect gorillas is a major conservation
achievement, said WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade
monitoring network.

This is the first time that countries where great ape species
are found in the wild are to be legally obligated to act in a
coordinated manner against threats to these animals.

The agreement, finalised today at a meeting hosted by the
Government of France and the UN's Convention on
Migratory Species, specifies efforts that governments need
to undertake and to collaborate on, including combating
poaching, supporting law enforcement and building
capacity in the legal and judicial areas.

The agreement will be legally binding, unlike previous
declarations from the range countries, such as the GrASP
Kinshasa Declaration in 2005.This new agreement is a
powerful tool because it has the potential to reshape the
way gorilla conservation is conducted. It will promote
collaboration and political will to secure habitat, and stop
escalating threats such as poaching and Ebola outbreaks,
all threats to the future of the world’s gorillas.

Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea,
Angola, Cameroon and Gabon participated in the talks,
while Rwanda was unable to attend.

WWF and TRAFFIC, who are active in gorilla conservation
in most of the range countries, were heavily engaged in
the negotiation process. The priority now is to make sure
that the agreement's recommendations can be turned into
conservation action as soon as possible. Only then will we
see an upturn in the fortunes of these magnificent animals.

• Six countries signed what is called the "final act" of
meeting which outlines and endorses the agreement.

• Great apes comprise gorillas, bonobo, chimpanzees and
orangutans. Like all great apes, eastern and western
gorillas are endangered with extinction in the wild. The two
gorilla species inhabit the shrinking habitat of equatorial
Africa. There are two subspecies of western gorilla:
western lowland gorilla and the more recently
discovered Cross River gorilla (G. g. diehli). The two
eastern gorilla subspecies, mountain gorilla (G. beringei
beringei) and eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla (G. b.
graueri), inhabit the upland and mountain forests of
eastern Central Africa.

• GrASP is the UN's Great Ape Survival Project. It is an
innovative and ambitious partnership between the United
Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

• Other agreements and conventions encompass great
apes, such as CITES, but are not specifically targeting
these species.

                                                                                             November 2007
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