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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Declaration signed on great apes
Chimpanzee   PA
Chimpanzees are among the threatened great ape species
More than 20 nations have signed an agreement aimed at saving the world's great apes from extinction.

The Kinshasa Declaration acknowledges that the root cause of poaching and deforestation is poverty, and pledges to support local communities.

Numbers of gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and orangutan have fallen sharply, and experts warn that some wild populations could disappear within a generation.

The agreement came during a meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Joint commitments

The meeting brought together governments from the so-called range states, where the apes live, and western donor nations including the UK.

Officials for the United Nations Great Ape Survival Project (Grasp), which set up the conference, said the nations' joint commitment was an important step forward.

"The declaration affirms political will at the highest level for the first time in the history of the great apes," project spokesman Matthew Woods said.

The UN body hopes the agreement will help stamp out poaching for bushmeat, animal trafficking and deforestation, which has destroyed the creatures' habitats.

It is poverty in the first place that leads to poaching
Henri Dojombo
The countries involved have appealed for international aid and development agencies to back their efforts.

The agreement calls for each range state to develop a plan for conservation within its territory, and for western nations and international agencies to support these plans financially.

The agencies should "make it a priority to develop and implement policies which promote ecologically sustainable livelihoods for local and indigenous communities", it says.

Resources on the ground

Henri Djombo, minister of forestry and environment for the Republic of Congo, said that more resources were needed from developed countries to safeguard the great apes.

He said: "Whether it be for research or for action on the ground, we need money. It is poverty in the first place that leads to poaching."

Gorilla in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DR Congo.  Born Free Foundation

A number of donors already give money for great ape projects, including the EU which earlier this year pledged 2.4 million euros (1.6m, US$3.0m) to Grasp.

But more is needed, according to the head of Grasp's technical team Ian Redmond: "We need to be talking in tens of millions of dollars," he said.

Scientists at the conference identified more than 100 sites, most of them in Africa, where viable great ape populations could be saved from extinction by implementing intensive conservation programmes.

Earlier this month, an authoritative UN-backed assessment concluded that some populations of great apes, notably the Sumatran orangutan and the mountain and Cross River gorillas, could be extinct in the wild within a human generation.


SEE ALSO
Nations focus on great ape crisis
05 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature
Apes 'extinct in a generation'
01 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature
Earth's species feel the squeeze
21 May 05 |  Science/Nature
Fisheries link to bushmeat trade
12 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
UN's clarion call for great apes
26 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
Pygmies' bushmeat trade woe
02 Sep 03 |  Science/Nature

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