December 5, 2008
Action Plan Aims to Save Declining Gorilla Populations
Countries with laws against gorilla poaching are vowing to step up their enforcement of such laws in light of claims from environmental groups that countries don't do enough to implement them.
The United Nations on Monday proclaimed as 2009 the Year of the Gorilla in order to raise funds for protection of the primates from disease, hunting and deforestation.
The Year of the Gorilla (YoG) campaign is spearheaded by a number of top experts including Jane Goodall, the renowned biologist and conservationist.
The decision came during the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in Rome.
"Virtually all of the 10 gorilla range states have laws against poaching," said WWF International's species program manager Wendy Elliott, who is at the convention.
"But are poachers arrested, are they taken to court, are they put in jail?
"The law is not always an effective deterrent."
Gorillas are threatened by diseases such as Ebola. They are also hunted for meat and their infants are captured for pets.
In August, the International Union for Conservation of Nature presented a report that showed nearly half of the world's 634 species of primates face extinction due to human activity.
The new plan is intended to help save gorillas on all three fronts "“ habitat, poaching, and disease.
Controlling Ebola is expected to be tougher than preserving the gorilla's habitat. So far, there is no effective treatment or vaccine for the virus in humans or in other primates.
Another of the YoG ambassadors, Ian Redmond of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (Grasp), said that in the long run, looking after gorillas can be very beneficial for local communities.
"In Rwanda and Uganda, tourism, with gorillas as the star attraction, has become the number one foreign exchange earner," he said.
Their role as "gardeners of the forest" was also vital to the long term ecological health of Africa's tropical rainforest, he added.
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