Briefing Notes for Press Conference

26 September 2000 Ape Alliance News

In view of the continuing decline in most populations of great apes, the Ape Alliance calls upon HM Government to:

1. Increase direct funding and technical aid for the conservation of great apes and their habitat, in co-operation with the governments of ape range states. There are a number of avenues through which such aid could be applied:

  • DFID’s remit is to promote civil society and sustainable development, but normally this does not include wildlife conservation; the government should recognise that functioning ecosystems are of benefit to human communities in and around them. Apes are keystone species in their habitats, and wherever they are wiped out the ecology of that area is irreparably damaged. They can also generate revenues through carefully controlled tourism. Protecting apes is of benefit to all.
  • In the US, the Great Ape Conservation Act is currently proceeding through the Senate, having passed through Congress; this Act proposes to make a significant sum available for ape conservation projects. Britain should follow this lead.
  • The UK’s successful proposal for CITES to tackle the international element of the illegal bushmeat trade was an encouraging step forward; technical support and capacity building for law enforcement and customs officers in ape range states should follow before the momentum is lost.
  • Another option is ‘Flagships’ - a scheme developed by Fauna and Flora International to allocate government funding to projects conserving flagship species - but this has failed to receive backing in the last two Budgets.

2. Ensure that a rigorous and transparent Environmental Impact Assessment is carried out prior to approval of all British overseas aid and/or loans for development projects, to ensure that forests, wildlife and indigenous people are not adversely affected. Building a road, for example, without making provisions for the training and equipping of wildlife law enforcement agents, can be disastrous if it allows unregulated access to commercial hunters.

3. Develop a timetable for phasing out the import of timber and wood products that have not been harvested in an environmentally responsible manner. This would include:

  • Legislation to require all timber and timber products to be clearly labelled as to species, country of origin, type of forest (plantation, production forest, old growth), thereby enabling consumer choice.
  • Financial incentives (such as reduced import taxes or subsidies) to encourage the import of ‘Ape Friendly’ products, i.e. independently certified timber and timber products.
  • In conjunction with the timber industry, the establishment of independently monitored environmental standards for timber extraction, and the setting of a date beyond which Britain would not allow the import of timber or timber products that do not meet these standards.

4. Use its influence internationally to encourage other timber importing countries in Europe and the G8 to adopt similar strategies. Many of the timber companies whose operations facilitate the illegal commercial bushmeat trade in Africa are based in Europe. The G8 nations import most of the timber and palm oil from ape range states, and thereby hold the key to the survival of our zoological next of kin.

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