GRASP is one of the few United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiatives to save a specific endangered species or a certain group of species. During the CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2000 at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, primate expert Ian Redmond approached Dr. Klaus Toepfer, the former Executive Director of UNEP, to suggest that a UN Special Envoy for Great Apes might succeed in raising awareness for the great ape issue.
Dr. Toepfer immediately saw the potential of such a plan and thus launched the Great Apes Survival Project in 2001. UNESCO soon after joined UNEP to form a joint secretariat. Subsequently, the UNEP Special Envoys for Great Apes were appointed. These were Dr. Russell Mittermeier, the President of Conservation International; Dr. Jane Goodall, the pioneering chimpanzee expert, conservationist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute; the late Dr. Toshisada Nishida, Japan's globally renowned primatologist and founder of the GRASP Japan Committee; Dr. Richard Leakey, the celebrated Kenyan authority on wildlife conservation; and Prof. Richard Wrangham, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University.
The UNEP Special Envoys have since been re-named "GRASP Patrons," to better stress their role. Since its inception, GRASP has worked to bring together a diversity of stakeholders to address the crisis facing the great apes and their habitat. Through high-level technical visits, innovative field projects, direct support to park management authorities, transboundary peacebuilding initiatives, National Great Ape Survival Plan (NGASP) policy-making workshops in African and Southeast Asian great ape range states, as well as political lobbying and awareness raising in donor states, GRASP bodies including the Technical Support Teams (TSTs) administered by the Born Free Foundation have made a strong case for the value it adds to great ape conservation efforts.
UNEP worked closely with UNESCO from the inception of GRASP, recognising the important role that the World Heritage Conventions and the Biosphere reserves play in great ape conservation. UNEP was delighted when UNESCO agreed to join UNEP to create a joint secretariat.
© 2012 Great Apes Survival Partnership