Fossey Fund Scientist Testifies for Great Ape Act Funding

Primatologist Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., the Dian Fossey Fund International’s Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Research and Conservation, presented testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives on the importance of reauthorizing funding for the protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. She spoke to the Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources on July 28, urging support for HR 1760, the Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2011.

Stoinski reviewed the endangered status of all great apes and the importance of great ape habitats to many other species, including our own. She stated that these critical ecosystems provide food, shelter, water and income to over 100 million people who live in the Congo Basin, prevent soil erosion, regulate rainfall and serve as one of the “lungs of the world.”

“Thus, investment by the US government and taxpayers in protecting apes and their rainforest homes is more than good environmental stewardship; it is an investment in our own future,” Stoinski emphasized.

“HR 1760 represents a Congressional commitment to continue to address the desperate plight of the great apes,” said Stoinski. She pointed out that the mountain gorillas of the Virungas, protected daily by the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke™ Research Center, are the only known great ape population that is increasing, thanks in part to funding from the U.S. Congress and other contributions this support has attracted. In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Conservation Act funding has supported our program working with community-based gorilla reserves that are protecting a forested area roughly the size of Connecticut. Health and education projects supported by Conservation Act funds have also helped people in Rwanda and the Congo who share their environment with the gorillas.

“The Great Ape Conservation Act is a proven formula that promotes cooperation among government entities, local communities, NGOs, and the private sector. It funds on-the-ground, rapid result initiatives that can be seen and felt by local people. This is essential because it is only through local action, local education, and local support that realistic solutions for saving the great apes can be devised and implemented. We highly recommend it be reauthorized at its current appropriations level of $5 million per year."

Anyone wishing to comment on HR 1760 may do so at http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h1760/show.