Deforestation and habitat destruction are the primary threats to great ape survival, as great apes depend heavily on the forests in which they live. GRASP engages with national and private land owners, agro-industrial stakeholders, corporate executives and private sector decision-makers to promote responsible land-use management that protects and expands great ape habitat. GRASP seeks to strengthen protected areas, encourage the development of corridors and connectivity, and raise the capacity of indigenous and local communities in natural resource management. GRASP works to ensure that great ape conservation issues are included in international processes such as REDD+ and FLEG-T, and that development agencies such as the World Bank and the European Union consider the impact of their projects upon great apes and their habitat. GRASP projects support forest patrols and community awareness programmes to prevent further deforestation, in addition to the development of “corridor” projects that re-connect fragmented forests.
GRASP promotes great ape conservation efforts that provide growth in income, employment, and human well-being and equity – while preventing the loss of biodiversity — by advocating so-called “Green Economy” approaches to prevent species and habitat loss, while encouraging local, regional and international investment in projects that offer economic and social gain. As development and economic growth expand across the globe, it is essential that GRASP focus on sustainable development, and identify opportunities to promote the natural value of great apes and forests. GRASP advocates for new approaches in payment for ecosystem services (PES) and revenue sharing, and helps national government embrace sustainable development, thereby minimizing the environmental risks and degradation to natural ecosystems.
The illicit traffic in live great apes and great ape body parts— whether for bushmeat consumption or for use in medicine or cultural ceremonies — represents a considerable threat to the species’ survival. GRASP is working to strengthen law enforcement efforts, promote judicial activity, and reduce demand. According to the 2013 GRASP report, Stolen Apes[link to pdf of stolen apes or to the publication section with an anchor], a minimum of 22,000 great apes were lost from the wild through illegal activity from 2005 to 2011, and clear links exist with other forms of organized crime. In 2015, GRASP will launch the Great Apes Illegal Trade Database to address all aspects of the traffic.
Many of the 23 great ape range States are plagued by civil unrest, regional disputes, human-wildlife conflict, and armed political conflict. GRASP promotes conflict-sensitive solutions, and great apes are often a viable entry point for cooperation and peace-building, thereby promoting peace and stability in areas where conflict affects great ape populations. Biodiversity-rich habitats that include great apes are often also rich in other resources such as oil and minerals. GRASP is heavily involved in finding solutions in the conflicts between conservation and extractive industries, and works as a moderator to use sustainable forest ecosystem management as tool for peace-building.
GRASP’s ability to deliver a strong, unified message on behalf of great ape conservation is one of its greatest assets. GRASP engages with politicians, business leaders, agro-industrial executives, key decision-makers and relevant stake-holders to impact local, national and international attitudes, and raise political and social debate regarding great ape conservation to the highest possible level. GRASP uses social media to access a vast audience, and created the apeAPP mobile phone application to help GRASP partners raise funds and awareness..
GRASP collaborates with global health organizations and international experts to monitor and mitigate the effects of infectious diseases, improve national capacity, and promote safeguards to protect the health of great ape populations and adjacent human populations. Great apes are susceptible to same deadly diseases than can affect humans — including Ebola, anthrax, Marburg and others — and the risk of transmission grows as human populations expand into great ape territory. GRASP projects, including those through the Spain-UNEP LifeWeb Initiative [link to LifeWeb magazine PDF], include disease monitoring programmes that seek to address this issue before it worsens.