The survival of the great apes lies in recognizing the importance of empowering the local communities with whom they share their natural habitat. Ape habitats are vital to humans and many other species as a source of food, water, medicine and timber and as a regulator to our changing climate. A reduction in ape numbers is a sure sign that the forests are being used unsustainably. Most communities living in the humid forests hosting the great apes are impoverished and more often than not are exploited by external forces interested in the natural resources that surround them. The loss of the rich biodiversity found in these habitats could not only lead to the extinction of the great apes but could also threaten the threat of the very survival of the local communities dependent on great ape habitat.
GRASP promotes the importance of forests and their human inhabitants at the international level by focusing on the conservation of flagship species (great apes), which live in tropical forests, and encouraging community development, national planning activities and donor commitment to address the protection of these habitats through pro-poor policies and interventions. GRASP works with local people to design and and implement development and conservation initiatives that are of mutual benefit to communities and great apes.
Poverty and lack of knowledge can drive their victims to use wildlife and other natural resources unsustainably. GRASP seeks to achieve sustainability by addressing these disadvantages where they are faced by people living in or near ape habitat, thus benefiting people, great apes and the wider environment. The need to link the welfare of humans and wildlife is a fundamental principle of GRASP.
GRASP supports projects that address these issues by helping people as well as wildlife. Above all, it is essential to support community-based projects that protect the entire forest resource - and maintain its capacity to supply people with essential products and services such as water, food, medicine, building materials, soil and fuel.
Specific GRASP activities in this area include:
Support to the TVE documentary "Blood Timber", broadcast on BBC-TV and focusing on the plight of the Baka people of Cameroon and the apes who share their habitat.
Four-year European Commission (EC) project to preserve forest resources and improve the livelihoods of forest peoples through the conservation of great apes as flagship species. Project included high-level intergovernmental meeting on great apes, field projects and national action plans for great ape conservation.
Participation in the organisation of a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) side event on bushmeat and the rights of indigenous people.
Two-year Spain project to support community conservation and livelihoods in three great ape range states (Cameroon, DR Congo and Republic of Congo):
Study on economic incentives and livelihood options for communities surrounding Cross River gorilla habitat in Takamanda National Park, Cameroon.
Hospital and healthcare infrastructure provided in Garamba National Park to support park staff and local communities.
Support to ecotourism activities in Ndoki-Lossi National Park, Republic of Congo.
Sumatran Orangutan Report produced by GRASP directly addressed economic incentives and alternative forms of income generation for human well-being and orangutan conservation in Batang Toru and Tripa, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© 2012 Great Apes Survival Partnership