Park safeguards western lowland gorillas, chimps, elephants, and other wildlife
NEW YORK (February 18, 2009)—Gorilla population surveys, conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, have helped the government of Cameroon create a new national park which will protect more than 600 gorillas, along with other threatened species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants, buffaloes, and bongo. Called Deng Deng National Park, the new protected area measures approximately 224 square miles (580 square kilometers) in size—approximately the size of the City of Chicago. The creation of Deng Deng National Park is the result of years of conservation planning, including the first gorilla population surveys in the former forest reserve in 2002 by WCS. Results from the surveys prompted the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to list Deng Deng as a priority area for protection, containing the most northern population of western lowland gorillas. “Deng Deng National Park is a major step toward conserving all of Cameroon’s gorilla populations and wildlife,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We applaud the government of Cameroon for continuing to be a leader in conservation and for taking this important step to protect this species.” Additional support for the conservation of Deng Deng’s biodiversity will come from the French Government, specifically through the French Agency for International Development (AFD). The agency has agreed to provide 735,000 Euros to fund the first phase (a three-year period) of the project, to be jointly implemented by WCS and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. WCS has had a long history in Cameroon, which began with WCS scientists being appointed technical advisors at Korup National Park in 1988. In partnership with the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and CAMRAIL (the Cameroon Railways), WCS continues to play a critical role in enforcing regulations that ban transportation of bushmeat or any other wildlife products from remote locations to urban markets by local trains. This effort in part has helped Cameroon uphold its obligations as a member nation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In late November of 2008, WCS helped Cameroon to create Takamanda National Park, which now forms part of an important trans-boundary protected area with Nigeria’s Cross River National Park and protects the Cross River gorilla. The western lowland gorilla is the most populous of the four gorilla subspecies. Last year, WCS scientists discovered more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas in the northern Republic of Congo. Other subspecies include: eastern lowland or “Grauer’s” gorillas, restricted to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; mountain gorillas, made famous by Dian Fossey and George Schaller; and Cross River gorillas, which number fewer than 300 individuals along the border region of Cameroon and Nigeria. WCS works to safeguard all four subspecies of gorilla, all of which are classified as “critically endangered” or “endangered” by the IUCN Red List. Cameroon is one of seven African nations supported by the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) and the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). The U.S. government acting through the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $60 million in biodiversity conservation in the Congo Basin. Together, this support has augmented funds for great apes conservation in the region through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administered Great Apes Conservation Fund. Since 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has invested more than $13 million for the conservation of gorillas, chimpanzees, and other great apes and has leveraged more than $17 million in private donations and matching funds. The Great Apes Conservation Fund Act, which authorizes this fund, expires in 2010. WCS will continue to educate the U.S. Congress about the need for increased support for great ape conservation in the upcoming months. In addition, WCS, along with many world partners, is celebrating the United Nation’s Year of the Gorilla, which was declared by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) in December 2008. Partners in the campaign include the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Year of the Gorilla is also part of the UN Decade for Education and Sustainable Development. The Wildlife Conservation Society will be celebrating this special year with awareness activities, including its “Run For The Wild,” a 5-kilometer run on the Bronx Zoo grounds.
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