NEW YORK (January 27, 2010) Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa Program, testified today before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans & Wildlife in support of H.R. 4416, the Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization and Amendment Act of 2010.
The bill would re-authorize the Great Ape Conservation Act – a source of critical conservation funding administered through the Great Ape Conservation Fund (GACF) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In his testimony, Deutsch discussed WCS’s extensive great ape conservation work, great ape status in the wild, and the threats these large primates face.
“Given WCS’s focus and expertise in great ape conservation, we welcome H.R. 4416’s intent to maintain targeted, critically needed and uninterrupted U.S. government support to great ape conservation,” Deutsch said.
Deutsch described the enactment of H.R. 4416, as critical, noting that in addition to the role it plays in great ape survival, funding from the GACF is vital to addressing key conservation issues on a landscape scale. In addition, the legislation will build political will in range countries while providing conservation benefits to local communities that will pay global dividends in the form of added protection against climate change, emerging disease, and civil unrest.
On behalf of WCS, Deutsch offered strong support for the inclusion of multi-year grants and scaled increases in funding levels for the GACF beginning in FY11.
“Though hugely valuable, resources available to date have not been sufficient to stem the continued loss of great ape habitat or the threats to apes from hunting for bushmeat and from diseases such as Ebola,” said Deutsch.
Deutsch opposed the creation of a proposed additional advisory panel and new strategic plan for the GACF indicating that they would consume limited resources needed to fund critical conservation in the field.
As part of his testimony, Deutsch discussed the connection of humans to great apes and cited WCS’s Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit as an example. Since its opening in 1999, nearly 7 million people have experienced the exhibit and allocated a portion of their admission fee – a total of more than $10.6 million – directly to field conservation projects in Central Africa’s Congo Basin. These funds have helped in the creation of 18 protected areas.
Deutsch praised Representative George Miller (D-CA), who introduced this critical piece of legislation, and Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) for their tireless work on behalf of global species conservation and in advancing H.R. 4416 in particular. He also thanked the Members of the Subcommittee for recognizing the urgent need to save our closest relatives in the wild.
Deutsch added, “The very survival of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons in the wild rests in the hands of our generation. Given the enormity of this responsibility, and the urgency of the need for increased conservation, WCS urges the Subcommittee and the Congress as a whole to act quickly and positively on the enactment of this critical piece of legislation.”
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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.