2009: Year of the Gorilla

2009 has been declared the Year of the Gorilla (YoG) in order to avoid the extinction of the largest living primate, by the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). After similar schemes for dolphins and turtles, "the Year of the Gorilla 2009 will place gorillas on a higher pedestal," says John Mshelbwala, U.N. Convention of Migratory Species expert. Gorillas, whose DNA is almost 100% identical to that of humans, are one of the most endangered species on the planet.UNEP warns that gorillas will become extinct in the next few decades if no action is taken. In the last decade, the number of Lowland Gorillas in he Republic of Congo for example, dropped from 17.000 to 5.000, with only 700 Mountain Gorillas left, according to UNEP. Worldwide, optimists believe there are some 200.000 gorillas left, while pessimists say there are only 6.000 left. The reasons are illegal hunting for 'bushmeat', deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, diseases like the Ebola virus and armed conflict.

The UN hopes to improve the situation of these apes by celebrating 2009 as the Year of the Gorilla. Action will be taken to better their habitat and to bring on peace in the areas where gorillas live. One such a solution is to create eco-tourism programs in order to develop sustainable habitats and avoid armed conflicts and illegal hunting. Convention executive secretary Robert Hepworth says that the initiative hopes to attract at least $630,000 dollars in donations.

The world-renowned great ape conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall is the official campaign patron. In the UK, the Year of the Gorilla 2009 Campaign will be launched at the Ice Rink of the Natural History Museum in London on Thursday 15th January 10am-12noon. YoG2009.org explains that a small troupe of ice skating "gorillas" will put on a display for the international media in a bid to draw attention to the dwindling number of gorillas living in the wild and the multitude of threats they are facing. The real gorillas, like those performing at the Natural History Museum, are skating on very thin ice! Via ::Discovery Channel ::YoG2009.org
More about Gorillas on TreeHugger:
Keeping Gorillas in our Midst
Mountain Gorillas Caught in the Middle of DR Congo Fighting, Park Rangers Forced to Flee
Congo's Gorilla Rangers Allowed to Return to Virunga National Park (Video Clip)
Vice TV Tracks Down 2 of the Few Remaining "Gorillas in the Midst"

Tags: Africa | Animals | Conservation | Deforestation | Discovery Channel | Endangered Species | Tourism | United Nations