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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Nations focus on great ape crisis
By Tim Hirsch
BBC environment correspondent

Gorilla in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DR Congo.  Born Free Foundation
The principal threat facing apes is destruction of their habitat
Ministers from 23 countries in Africa and south-east Asia are meeting to discuss measures to save the world's great apes from extinction.

Scientists have warned wild populations of the six species could disappear in a generation without urgent action.

Ministers at the Democratic Republic of Congo conference will be told of 100 sites where chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans could survive with help.

They will be urged to enforce stricter controls on poaching and deforestation.

It will be the first ministerial meeting of the Great Apes Survival Project, bringing together the governments of the 23 countries where the great apes remain.

The great apes; status check

Representatives from the European Union and the UN Environment Programme are also involved.

The project was set up in response to alarming forecasts about the future of the remaining great apes - the gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos of Africa, and the orangutans of south-east Asia.

Scientists will point out how intensive conservation efforts at more than 100 sites identified with viable great ape populations could slow the species' slide towards extinction.

Among the commitments being asked of the ministers are stronger enforcement of anti-poaching laws.

They will also be encouraged to control the deforestation which has destroyed the habitats of great apes in recent decades.

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