UN-backed meeting calls for protection of endangered gorillas

New York, US (PANA) - A UN-backed meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda, has called for better enforcement of laws to protect endangered gorillas in 10 African countries.

A UN statement, made available to PANA in New York on Friday, said the two-day meeting, which ended Thursday, was organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals under the UN Environment Programme (UNEP/CMS).

It said the forum was the first gathering of UN agencies, governments in the region, local wildlife authorities, NGOs, global experts to tackle wildlife crime, which threatens gorillas.

According to the statement, the participants reviewed current conservation activities affecting the four sub-species of gorillas in East and Central Africa and also discussed solutions to address the major threat of commercial poaching for bushmeat and live trade in gorillas.

The statement quoted the CMS Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, as saying that, "joint efforts to apply wildlife law are important because gorillas play a key role in the ecology of Africa’s forests."

She stated that, "gorillas loss has an impact on the health of the whole ecosystem and, by extension, on everyone who lives in, or benefits from these forests."

The statement also said that, "local, national and international law enforcement efforts are essential to protect gorillas and their rainforest habitat."

It noted that the UN was already working closely with INTERPOL and national governments to curb the trade in live apes and bushmeat, as well as the illegal harvesting of timber.

" INTERPOL offered its global network of national offices to help combat wildlife crime relating to gorillas and other endangered species and a global response is required against environmental and wildlife crime,” it stated.

Also, the meeting resolved on the need to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies, as well as collaboration between governments and coordination with UN missions, such as MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to protect the gorillas.

The CMS Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats, which came into force in 2008, provides the framework for regional cooperation in the long-term protection of gorillas in the ten countries of the Congo Basin, ranging from Nigeria in the west, to Angola in the south and Uganda in the east.

So far, it has been signed by six states, namely the Central African Republic (CAR), the Republic of Congo, DRC, Gabon, Nigeria and Rwanda.

According to UNEP: "Collaboration among regional countries is already bearing fruit, while gorilla populations across Africa are in decline, the numbers of two small populations of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda are on the rise."

It said that, "CMS continues to support regional efforts, which were initiated during the Year of the Gorilla in 2009 to fight the illegal trade in endangered species."

It further said that, "earlier this year, Gabon, assisted by the charity Conservation Justice and partially funded by CMS, achieved what might be the biggest arrest related to ape poaching yet in Africa.

"Thirteen heads and 32 hands of gorillas and chimpanzees were confiscated from five wildlife smugglers, along with the remains of elephants, leopards, lions and other endangered species.  The smugglers are all awaiting trial in Gabon,'' UNEP said.
-0- PANA AA/BOS 1April2011

01 april 2011 15:38:54

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