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United Kingdom pledges major backing for UN project to save great apes

United Kingdom pledges major backing for UN project to save great apes

The Government of the United Kingdom today pledged substantial support for an international project to save the Earth's remaining great apes - a move that was immediately hailed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which launched the effort.

In a statement to a gathering of government representatives at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi, the United Kingdom committed to providing significant expertise and crucial financial backing to the Great Apes Survival Project, known as "GRASP."

The project, which has brought together wildlife groups and charities from across the globe to save humankind's closest-living relatives, was announced in May by UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. At that time, he had warned that "the clock is standing at one minute to midnight for the great apes." Today, Mr. Toepfer said, London's support means "we have shaved a few seconds off this Doomsday clock."

Calling on private industry and other governments to join in the endeavour, the UNEP chief said rescuing the great apes was not just about saving the animals, but was "a blueprint for sustainable development." In conserving and guaranteeing a future for the great apes, the world would also be tackling the poverty and environmental degradation that are blighting the lives of people where the species is found - in Africa, Sumatra and Borneo.

GRASP, which aims to raise an initial $2.9 million over two years, is drawing plans for key ape projects in those areas. According to UNEP, some of the sites involved need equipment as well as training for wildlife protection staff and park rangers. Others require help in developing eco-tourism schemes to give local people alternative livelihoods.