WCS to announce Year of the Gorilla activities in 2009

ROME (December 1, 2008) – The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is proud to be 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.”

For more than a century, WCS has run the world famous Bronx Zoo, home to the largest troop of gorillas in North America. Its award-winning Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2009 and has raised more than $8.5 million for conservation in Central Africa since its opening.

The Year of the Gorilla is part of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Next year marks 50 years since WCS senior conservationist George Schaller began his landmark study of the mountain gorilla, subsequently publishing two books: The Mountain Gorilla and The Year of the Gorilla. Little was known about the life of the mountain gorilla before his research, which described its social organization, life history, and ecology.

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.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org

Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation

Interview opportunities available with John Calvelli and Dr. James Deutsch, WCS Director for Africa Programs