Great Apes Are the World's Heritage

Do our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, rapidly diving toward extinction, deserve special consideration and targeted protection in the global community? A group of primatologists, conservationists, and animal advocates think so, and they have launched The Great Ape World Heritage Species Project, www.4greatapes.com. If successful, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans would get radically increased worldwide attention and preservation, similar to architectural works, archaeological sites, and natural areas that are protected as World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Even if never covered under the existing Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, however, the Project could secure an international declaration for the security of great apes and a specific convention designating great apes as a World Heritage Species. In more than 20 African countries from Angola to Uganda and three countries in Asia, great apes are under constant assault from habitat destruction, bushmeat poaching, insufferable civil wars, and capture for the pet trade. Globally, great apes also languish in captivity-any declaration or convention establishing their inherent value and adding safeguards must equally apply to them. Due recognition for the great apes' plight and considerable international cooperation are vital if they are to survive this decade.