Press Releases January 2009 - Gorillas on Thin Ice <br>Thursday 15th January - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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Gorillas on Thin Ice
Thursday 15th January

Year of the Gorilla 2009 Fund-Raiser Skates-Off at The Natural History Museum Ice Rink in London Thursday 15th January

Photo Call at 10.30am

7 January 2009, London/Bonn/Nairobi- Nemo the Disney clownfish has done it and so have Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty; now it is time for 'Gorillas on Ice!'

As part of the 2009 international Year of the Gorilla (YoG), co-ordinated by the United Nations and to herald the Charles Darwin bi-centenary celebrations next month, a troupe of skaters dressed as primates are to take to the rink at The Natural History Museum in London.

The event, which is free to spectators, is happening on 15 January from 10.00am to noon with the Museum's Balcony overlooking the rink available for press photographers to capture the unique occasion.

The event aims to raise awareness and funds for human-kind's closest and most threatened relatives, with young skaters from London ice rinks volunteering to take part on behalf of our close cousins, the gorillas.

Funds raised throughout the YoG will support a range of innovative projects in Africa agreed under a new Gorilla Agreement and its recently adopted action plan.

Justin Wateridge, Managing Director of luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent which is supporting the YoG said: "The world's gorillas are very much skating on thin ice as a result of habitat destruction, conflict and poaching. By the end of the year we hope this UN-led international campaign will have made their future more secure and the prospects for their long term survival that little bit brighter. We are pleased to support it."

The YoG (, whose patron is the renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, was formally launched by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco at an international wildlife conference in Rome a few weeks ago.

The skate-off in London marks the first awareness-building and fund-raising event of the new 12 month-long campaign and launches an appeal to the corporate sector to get involved and sponsor gorilla projects in the field in the ten African countries which are their range states.

Several governments have pledged funding for the Year including Germany and Monaco as well as companies including the tourism firm Abercrombie & Kent.

Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of the UN Environment Programme-Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP-CMS) which is coordinating the Year said: "In countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, gorillas are at the centre of a tourism industry that is generating essential income and livelihoods for thousands upon thousands of poor and marginalized people."

"So it is time to unpack those blades and make a sharp point for the gorilla and its continued survival and for the people of Africa. In doing so, the event will not only contribute to great ape conversation but the conservation of countless other species who share and co-exist in gorilla habitats and who also contribute to human well-being," he added.

Ian Redmond OBE, YoG Ambassador, added: "Gorillas may be on thin ice metaphorically, but the conservation of gorillas can help slow global warming that really is thinning polar ice and glaciers worldwide. Why? Because gorillas are keystone species in the Congo Basin forests which along with those of the Amazon and South East Asia play a vital role in maintaining a healthy planet and removing greenhouse gases."

"In turn the health of these forests depends on primates such as the gorilla who disperse seeds for the next generation of trees. This is why the Year of the Gorilla is so timely, because it underlines yet another reason why forests must be included in the new UN climate deal scheduled for agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark in late 2009," he added.

Notes to Editors

"Gorillas on Thin Ice" will take place at the 900 square-metre ice rink in the gardens of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London.

Ian Redmond, YOG Ambassador and Justin Wateridge of A&K, will be among those available for interview.

For more information about the event and to arrange interviews or photography please contact Sarah Nuttall, UK?Based UNEP-CMS Fund Raiser, on Tel: 01403 733 878 or 0790 20 11 734 or e-mail:

The Museum has generously donated the time from 10.00am to noon for the event on 15 January and the volunteer skaters taking part are being allowed to do so for free.

Gorilla outfits are being supplied by wildlife groups and Non Governmental Organizations linked with primate conservation.

The Year of the Gorilla (YoG) is a joint initiative of the 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). CMS has 110 governments supporting as Parties.

His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II said: "It is in the interest of the international community and our honourable task to save these unique natural resources and the World Heritage Sites where they live."

Renowned primatologist and Year of the Gorilla 2009 Patron Dr. Jane Goodall said: "It is time for us to pool all of our resources toward saving these magnificent creatures. I am pleased to lend my voice to the Year of the Gorilla 2009, a campaign aimed at ensuring a future for this close cousin of humankind."

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Flagship species such as the gorilla can be a powerful catalyst for improved conservation and the more intelligent management of economically-important ecosystems. In doing so, initiatives such as the Year of the Gorilla can galvanize and re-vitalize action on the ground so urgently needed to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity while generating incomes and improving livelihoods for local people and communities."

Funds raised from Year of the Gorilla will go towards gorilla conservation in Africa being undertaken by registered NGOs.

Experts meeting in November 2008 under the new Gorilla Agreement, coordinated by UNEP-CMS adopted a comprehensive action plan to support the upcoming Year.

The action plan includes a range of inspiring and transformational projects available for backing by governments, business, civil society groups and individuals.

Typical Projects

- Tests in the Democratic Republic of Congo have found that locally made 'Rocket Stoves' can cut charcoal and wood use by up to 70 per cent. Expanding the pilot to thousands of homes in the region could help reduce pressure on gorilla forest habitats, boost incomes and livelihoods for local people and improve air quality in local homes.

- A second pilot project, this time in Cameroon, is boosting alternative livelihoods in order to reduce commercial hunting of bushmeat ? the Year of Gorilla plans to expand the 'Apiarists for the Apes' (an Apiarist is a beekeeper) programme to more communities.

- Rwanda and Uganda are two countries generating significant economic returns from ape-based eco-tourism. Indeed tourism, linked to a significant extent with Rwanda's Mountain Gorilla populations now surpasses coffee and tea exports as Rwanda's number one foreign exchange earner. It is planned to dispatch guides and operators from successful eco-tourism programme in East Africa to countries such as Gabon in order to boost the success of eco-tourism initiatives in West Africa.

The Gorilla and its Plight

Many experts are warning that without urgent action gorillas will become extinct in the wild within the next few decades.

Three of the four gorilla species are listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, putting them at risk of extinction.

The populations of the Mountain Gorilla in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda and the Cross River Gorilla in Cameroon and Nigeria number only 700 and 300 individuals respectively.

The Eastern Lowland Gorilla population in the DRC has plummeted dramatically over the last 10 years, with probably only about 5,000 of the formerly 17,000 animals remaining.

The most numerous subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla which occurs in Angola, Central African Republic, Cameroon, DRC, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo, number perhaps as many as more than 200,000 animals. Nevertheless these populations remain threatened on several fronts.

For More Information on the Year of the Gorilla Please Contact Ms.Veronika Lenarz, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, on Tel: +49 (0)228 8152409, e-mail:

For the Natural History Museum event please contact Sarah Nuttall, UK - Based UNEP-CMS Fund Raiser, on Tel: 01403 733 878 or 0790 20 11 734 or e-mail:




Further Resources

Convention on Migratory Species

2009 Year of the Gorilla

UNEP Great Apes Survival Partnership


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