GRASP Council Confronts Crisis

05th Nov 2012 Press Releases

Wild populations of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos are in sharp decline and their habitat is under severe threat, adding urgency to the 2nd Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Council meeting that gets underway 6-8 November in Paris, France.

GRASP will examine threats, consider solutions and ask its broad membership to craft a strategy to ensure the long-term survival of great apes, which are closer than ever to extinction.

The 2nd GRASP Council will be held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which jointly hosts the GRASP secretariat with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“GRASP needs to address a host of issues that currently threaten the future for great apes,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “It’s not just about protecting a species or a habitat anymore. The world has gotten much more complex, and we need to take into account numerous human issues – population, disease, food, and security – if great apes are to survive.”

More than 200 delegates will attend the 2nd GRASP Council, including 21 of the 23 great ape range state countries. Regular updates and video of key presentations are available at

Eastern Lowland gorillas are included among the 25 Most Endangered Primates, while all species of apes are classified as “endangered.” Less than 300 Cross River gorillas exist in Nigeria and Cameroon, and orangutans on the island of Sumatra have dipped to approximately 5,000.

A GRASP scientific report will be released this week notes that virtually all ape subspecies are facing reductions in suitable habitat and characterizes the lack of conservation effort as “dramatic.” That same report states that “ape conservation strategies need to be urgently refocused.”

“We have to get it right for great ape conservation, and we have to get it right now,” said GRASP Patron Richard Wrangham, who splits his time between the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Uganda and the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. “We need a renewed commitment to conservation that not only halts those declines, but actually begins to reverse those trends. We need to reach more decision-makers at the highest levels and touch more hearts at every level. We need a culture of change as a matter of urgency — before it’s too late.”

The 2nd GRASP Council will feature plenary sessions devoted to specific issues, including “Great Apes & Illegal Trade” (Nov. 6), “Great Apes & Green Economy” (Nov. 7), and “Great Apes & Technology” (Nov.8).

GRASP is a unique alliance comprised of member nations, research institutions, conservation organizations, United Nations agencies, and private supporters. Launched in 2005, GRASP is the only species-specific conservation initiative within the United Nations.

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November 2012