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7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP, France


Nurturing the democratic debate.  
20-11-2003 5:10 pm A crisis meeting to rescue the great apes will be held from November 26 to 28 at UNESCO Headquarters, at which representatives of 23 African and Asian states and scientific experts will develop a strategy to save humankind’s closest living relatives from extinction.

Every single species of great ape now faces a high risk of extinction either in the immediate future or at best within 50 years, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Representatives from all countries with great ape populations and donor countries will meet with leading scientific experts from non-governmental organizations and universities through the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP), co-ordinated by UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). They will develop a Global Great Ape Conservation Strategy, to be released at a press conference at UNESCO, November 28th at 1:00 p.m.

Great apes, which include gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos, share more than 96 per cent of their DNA with humans. For chimpanzees, the figure is as high as 98.4 per cent. For many scientists, by losing a single species of great apes, we destroy part of the bridge to our own origins and part of our humanity.

Human activities pose the most serious threats to the great apes. Growing human populations encroach on their habitat, while civil wars, poaching for meat, the live animal trade, and above all, the destruction of forests, are increasingly taking their toll.

Logging threatens great ape habitats while triggering a host of related problems, namely trade in commercial bushmeat. Hunters supply ape meat to logging employees, expanding agricultural communities and people in distant towns and cities.

Logging and mining camps also bring new roads and more visitors into the great ape habitats, which increases the risk of infectious diseases ‘jumping’ between apes and humans. Chimpanzees and gorillas are highly vulnerable to many human infectious diseases, especially influenza, tuberculosis, measles, mumps and even the common cold.

Journalists wishing to attend the meeting or the press conference should register with the
Press Service, Tel +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 44

For background documents: www.unesco.org/mab/grasp/prepIGM.htm

Source Media advisory No 2003 - 98


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