Interpol has teamed up with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to launch Project LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), an initiative dedicated to combating forestry crime, illegal logging and timber trafficking that was launched on World Environment Day.
Project LEAF, which is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), is an innovative, international response representing the first time that organizations of this stature have joined forces against this organized, sophisticated and trans-national crime.
Nearly 1.6 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – rely on forests for their fuel, food, and medicines, along with the great apes and other wildlife that inhabit those areas. But sophisticated syndicates are illegally extracting the world timber from forests in Asia, Africa and South America at a devastating pace.
Corruption, violence and even murder tied to illegal logging can also affect a country’s stability and security.
Rainforests in Asia that are home to orangutans and African forests that host chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos are some of the most heavily harvested regions of all.
Primate expert Inza Koné, who has served as a member of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Scientific Commission since 2007, has won a Whitley Fund for Nature award in support of community conservation projects in his native Cote d’Ivoire.
Koné was honored for his work to protect the 12,000-hectare Tanoé Forest, which is home to critically endangered monkey species, including Miss Waldron’s red colobus, which is so rare that scientists had considered it extinct as recently as 2000.
Koné received his Whitley Fund for Nature award at a ceremony the Royal Geographical Society in London, where he was lauded for “acting to secure a better future for people and wildlife in a last stronghold of West Africa’s three most endangered primates. “ Princess Anne presented the award, which included a USD $50,000 cash prize.
Camera traps set up in the forests of western Cameroon have captured some the first video of critically endangered Cross River gorillas, a species so rare that no more than 300 individuals are believed to exist in the wild.
The cameras – which are triggered by motion sensors – clearly identify a family of four gorillas moving through the Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary. Although one gorilla appears to be missing a hand, the group appears otherwise healthy in the nearly two-minute clip.
The camera traps are part of a conservation project led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which works with the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) and other organizations in the region to protect Cross River gorillas and their habitat.
“This video is extremely important, both from a scientific point of view and as a means of emphasizing the plight of the Cross River gorillas,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “This footage illustrates the beauty and the fragility of the species, and adds urgency to the fight to protect them.”
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The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is an innovative and ambitious partnership comprised of great ape range states with an immediate challenge - to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas (Gorilla beringei, G. gorilla), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus) and orangutans (Pongo abelii, P. pygmaeus) across their ranges in equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia.
The A.P.E.S portal is an online tool that provides real-time, visual representation of information about great apes, their habitats, populations, threats and conservation efforts around the world.
© 2012 Great Apes Survival Partnership