7 February. While the remake of the story of the
most famous gorilla ever is playing in theatres worldwide,
showing a sensitive but powerful beast walking around the
paths of metropolitan jungles and fighting against urban police,
his African brothers and sisters face a harder battle for
Gorillas are the largest Great Apes on the planet and,
as they share 98 % of their DNAs with humans, could really
be considered our close cousins. They are currently found
in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial
Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, where they are exposed
to a series of threats which are increasingly affecting
their habitats and their own lives.
Indeed, contact with the human world is deadly dangerous.
It is actions of their furless cousins, rapidly building
new settlements, expanding agricultural areas, depleting
forests for logging and mining and fighting wars and fueling
conflicts which is taking away their peace and homeland.
“King Kong might scare American police in fiction,
but in reality cannot prevent humans from poaching for bushmeat,
and capturing live young specimens, for sale. “ says
Mr. Hepworth, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory
Species, an international agreement for the protection of
wildlife and their habitats under the United Nations Environment
“In addition,” continues Mr. Hepworth, “
increased close contact with humans is a potential source
of disease. Very high degree of similarity in the genome
of gorillas and humans makes them susceptible to many of
the same diseases without having developed the same immunities.
The spread of Ebola virus among high-density populations
of Western Lowland Gorilla in Central Africa is an example”.
With these problems in mind, as well as the need to contribute
to poverty alleviation and sustainable development for the
local populations whose incomes are often based on unsustainable
use of wildlife, the Convention on Migratory Species is
initiating work to develop an international Agreement on
Gorillas. This agreement, to be signed by the relevant African
Range States, will envisage a number of joint activities,
programmes and projects to be undertaken by the Convention
and the Range States to conserve existing populations of
“This type of initiatives”, stresses Mr. Alfredo
Guillet, representative of the Directorate General for Development
Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
which is amongst the donors, “promote transboundary
cooperation in countries which need a open dialogue to address
also their environmental challenges. Migratory species could
be the trait d’union and the common ground
for these countries to collaborate, discuss common problems,
and jointly implement environmental solutions and thus encourage
transboundary cooperation and peace. This is why the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs considers transboundary environmental
issues as a priority for international cooperation”.
It is expected that the Agreement will be ready to for
signature and entry into force by the end of 2008. CMS has
signed today a contract to work in close collaboration with
the Institut Royal des Sciences de Belgique which will lead
to the drafting of the Agreement and the preparation of
proposals for conservation, capacity-building and confidence
raising measures to facilitate the protection of gorillas
and their ecosystems (including World Heritage Sites) and
dependent human populations. Negotiation sessions to finalize
documents with Governments and other stakeholders, and to
agree on a project portfolio will also be organized in the
months to come.
UNEP/GRASP and UNESCO are also partners to this initiative.
CMS is inviting other partners to join in this conservation
endeavor, trying to save our close, harmless, cousins.
Click here to download the GRASP
For more information and to join the initiative
tel. (+49) 228 815 2462