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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Gorillas and gibbons love The Great Ape Conservation Act!

Published 03/04/10
By Maggie Graham, Research Assistant

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a legislative hearing on the reauthorization of H.R. 4416, the Great Ape Conservation Act, a bill that has already been instrumental in protecting great ape species through funding granted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to NGOs and other groups committed to their survival.

This was my first hearing, and therefore, I had no idea what to expect. I did not anticipate the members of the subcommittee engaging as deeply as they did — asking the attending witnesses thoughtful questions regarding the natural history of great apes, ideas on conservation strategies, and discussing amendments to the bill regarding its administration.

While I am already a proponent of primate conservation (of course!), the need for reauthorization of this bill became apparent to me as I heard dedicated experts and professionals give their accounts of how this legislation has clearly made a difference in the survival of several species thus far.

I learned that hunting of the Cross River gorilla, Africa’s most endangered ape, has been greatly reduced due to increased patrolling and creation of protected areas funded by the Act.

Also, the Cao-Vit gibbon, one of the world’s most critically endangered ape species, has been protected by patrol groups, and local NGOs in the Sabah region of Borneo have been able create political pressure and conduct aerial surveys for orangutans because of funding appropriated through the Great Ape Conservation Act.

All of the witnesses asserted the need for continued funding and protection to combat the ongoing threats to great apes such as habitat destruction, bushmeat trade, poaching and disease. There was discussion of how funds can be allocated with conservation projects that will benefit surrounding communities as well as the wildlife — quite a win-win for everybody!

I have to say, it was encouraging to get a firsthand account of how legislation actually does affect issues out in the real world! I now see the value in supporting bills that I feel compassionate about, such as this one and many other bills that seek to protect wildlife and animal rights.

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