News Announced as People Young and Old Skate Off in London to Lift Threat of ‘Gorillas on Thin Ice’
Three projects aimed at countering the slide towards extinction of one of human-kind’s closest relatives were spotlighted today as events to mark the international Year of the Gorilla (YOG) 2009 got underway with a ‘Gorillas on Thin Ice” event.
As part of the launch of the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) international Year of the Gorilla (YoG) in the United Kingdom, a troupe of skaters dressed as gorillas are to take to the rink at The Natural History Museum in London.
The projects, the first among a list being drawn up by the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) in need of government and corporate support, are aimed at boosting the prospects for the Cross River Gorilla which is Africa’s rarest ape.
Proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the projects involve educational initiatives and public awareness campaigns among local people to curb hunting, bush burning and logging alongside the establishment of community-based ‘gorilla guardian’ initiatives. The involvement of communities in conservation activities will be promoted as an add-on to more government driven approaches.
One also involves gathering more scientific data on the evasive Cross River Gorilla population in Cameroon and Nigeria to improve the conservation of these great apes and their habitat. The identification of suitable new habitat and the potential for accessing newly emerging multi-million dollar carbon funds could prove crucial for the long-term prospects of gorillas.
Under the UN climate change convention, governments are considering funding forests in order to reduce deforestation and the release of greenhouse gases. The project is to assess whether Cross Gorilla habitat might prove attractive to investors, thus boosting conservation, local livelihoods and the fight against climate change.
Other projects, to be approved shortly under the CMS Gorilla Agreement’s Action Plan, will also cover populations of the other subspecies across the ten African countries where gorillas are still found. Funds raised throughout the YoG will support these innovative projects.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The world is currently going through a sixth wave of extinctions—so it not just gorillas that are skating on thin ice you could put a whole menagerie out there today on the Natural History Museum rink from Iberian Lynx and Cuban crocodile to the La Palma Giant Lizard and the Rameshwaram Parachute Spider”.
“Thus in supporting the Year of the Gorilla countries, companies and citizens will not only be acting to save important high-profile species, but also a rich array of forest biodiversity upon which many people depend. Biodiversity too that may hold the clue to breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals and improved crops to new kinds of smart materials and processes that will be urgently needed for a sustainable 21st century”.
Robert Hepworth, CMS Executive Secretary, said: “Gorillas play a crucial role in maintaining the tropical rainforests in Africa, which are one of the key pillars of a world climate in balance. The future of these forests depends on gorillas who plant the seeds for the next generation of trees. The Year of the Gorilla is a unique opportunity to secure government, corporate and civil support for the survival of our closest relatives. The Gorilla Agreement provides the framework for an innovative and highly promising conservation approach involving local communities.”
News of the projects comes as skaters, volunteers of all ages drawn from rinks across London, today take to the ice dressed as gorillas in order to raise awareness of the YOG.
The unique and potentially surreal event is taking place between 10.00am and noon at the Natural History Museum who have donated two hours worth of free time for the event. The skaters, whose presence is being supported by the travel company Abercrombie & Kent, are drawn from London rinks including Alexandra Palace, Romford and Streatham.
Various wildlife groups including Fauna & Flora International, the Zoological Society of London and the Born Free Foundation who are also inviting Donal Macintyre, the acclaimed TV investigative reporter currently also competing in the Independent Television 1 extravaganza ‘Dancing on Ice’ will be attending as well as government representatives.