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Jeffords Introduces Bill to Protect Great Apes

THE GREAT APE CONSERVATION ACT OF 1999 (United States Senate - May 12, 1999)

[Page: S5151]

Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, yesterday I introduced a bill to assist in the preservation of the great apes. The bill, the `Great Ape Conservation Act of 1999', is modeled after the highly successful African and Asian Elephant Conservation Acts, and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act. It will authorize up to $5 million per year to fund various projects to aid in the preservation of the endangered great apes.

Great ape populations currently face many threats, including habitat loss, population fragmentation, live capture, and hunting for the bushmeat trade. Of all these threats, the danger posed by the increasing bushmeat trade is the most severe. This trade is being facilitated by the construction of inroads to logging areas, which allows once remote forests to be linked directly with urban markets.

Chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos, once hunted sustainably, now face population destruction due to increased illegal trade, powerful weapons, and high market prices. This consumption of ape meat not only threatens ape populations, but poses severe health risks to humans. Human contraction of many viruses, including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been linked to the slaughter and consumption of apes. With the loss of ape populations, comes the loss of critical medical knowledge that can be obtained through simple, noninvasive research on wild populations. Some estimates suggest that several thousand apes are killed every year across West and Central Africa, a level that is unsustainable and means the certain destruction of viable populations in the very near future.

If we do not act now, not only will great apes face extinction, but the ecosystems that depend on their contributions will suffer. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting legislation that can provide funding to the local farming, education and enforcement projects that can have the greatest positive impact. This small, but critical investment of U.S. taxpayer money, matched with private funds, could secure the future of these extraordinary animals.

For more information on the Great Ape Conservation Act, or to find out who your federal elected officials are, contact Christine Wolf at The Fund for Animals, 301-585-2591, or CWolf@fund.org

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