Saving the great apes

Each of us must take up the challenge of saving the great apes

Thank you for your coverage of the deteriorating circumstances of great apes in the wild, and the breakthrough Kinshasa Declaration designed to help save them. The threats to these species and their tropical forest homes are abundant, diverse, and potent, and the scale of consistent, long-term effort needed to address them should not be under-estimated.

As Kofi Annan observed in his Foreword to the World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation, “We need governments and companies to ‘adopt’ them and the places where they live.” This means that our institutions must be prepared to commit reliable, directed investment over decades, to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that particular species or populations will be safe far into the future.

The UK Government has proven a reliable friend to the great apes, but now there is a need for a new level of policy. We, as a nation, should adopt one or more of these species, and structure our investments, aid programmes, partnerships and lobbying activities around their survival in the wild, not just for a year or two but indefinitely. Perhaps following this example other countries will likewise adopt other species, and the threat of extinction can systematically be lifted from these close relatives of ours.

Julian Caldecott (co-editor of the World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation and a signatory of the Kinshasa Declaration on behalf of the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge), published in The Independent, 15 September 2005.