Delegates from 20 countries have signed a declaration asking governments across the world to help protect the gorilla, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
The agency said the gorilla should be saved not only for conservation reasons, but as potential money makers too.
The 160 government officials, experts, corporate representatives and conservationists issued the declaration after a two-day meeting in Frankfurt marking the UN Year of the Gorilla.
The declaration “appeals to governments, the international community and industrial companies to enhance activities to reduce threats to the remaining gorilla populations in the wild, which can contribute to peace-making and prosperity in Central Africa,” UNEP said.
Although gorillas are protected by law in every one of the ten African range States, they are hunted for their meat, which is sold at local markets and abroad, UNEP said.
“Enforcement of wildlife laws is necessary to control the bush meat trade. One million tons of bush meat is harvested every year in the Congo Basin alone,” UNEP said.
According the UN agency, gorillas and their habitats have the potential to support post-conflict reconstruction efforts and advance long-term regional economic development through ecotourism.
A gorilla can generate indirectly $4 million during its life time. In Rwanda and Uganda tourism has developed into the leading contributor to the national economy exceeding the tea and coffee exports, UNEP said.
Serapio Rekundo, Ugandan Minister for Tourism said: “The total revenue of Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks increased by almost 80 per cent between 2005 and 2008. In addition to providing a boost to the national economy, gorilla tracking can even support wildlife conservation in other Protected Areas.”
The Year of the Gorilla is a joint initiative of UNEP-Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP-CMS), the UNEP/UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).