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WCS designated key supporter of gorillas

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The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is designated as a key supporter of the world-wide Year of the Gorilla campaign, which was launched here today at the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS).

The Year of the Gorilla campaign will support conservation action in protecting gorilla habitat. Other aspects will include the funding and training of rangers, support for scientific research, development of alternative sources of income such as ecotourism, as well as education and awareness-raising.

Partners in the Year of the Gorilla campaign include the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

As 2009 commences, WCS will join these partners in world-wide activities and announce its own Year of the Gorilla campaign to highlight the importance of saving wildlife and wild places around the world. More details on WCS activities will be announced next year.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society is working to protect all four gorilla subspecies,” said WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven E. Sanderson. “We are enthusiastic with the world’s interest in gorillas and know that it will take an effort by many partners to ultimately save this iconic species from extinction.”

For close to half a century, WCS has initiated and supported gorilla research and conservation projects throughout their range in Africa, from the first field study of mountain gorillas conducted in the 1950s, to the discovery of 125,000 western lowland gorillas in northern Republic of Congo this year, to the announcement last week of a new national park in Cameroon preserving the core habitat for the Cross River gorilla—the world’s rarest gorilla subspecies.

Throughout Central Africa, WCS works with governments, indigenous communities and the private sector to establish management programs for gorillas and other wildlife. A key aspect of these programs is developing effective law enforcement measures for protected species, including gorillas. WCS’s education and outreach efforts focus on the bushmeat trade and target both local and urban markets. This includes developing alternative protein sources in larger logging towns. WCS Africa Programs and Global Health Program staff monitor gorilla health to understand the transmission patterns of Ebola and other diseases and are currently field testing methods to potentially control the spread of Ebola in great ape populations.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society and our partners have worked closely with the U.S. Government through its Great Ape Conservation Fund and Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which has provided key funding and support to protect Congo wildlife, prominently including great apes,” said John Calvelli, WCS executive vice president for Public Affairs. “We are hopeful that the Year of the Gorilla will help inform the Obama Administration of the important work being done.”

The main threats to gorillas are hunting for food and traditional medicine, destruction of habitat through logging, mining and production of charcoal, the effects of armed conflicts, and diseases like Ebola.

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