WWF and TRAFFIC are celebrating a major victory for gorilla conservation. Today in Paris, France, nine African countries endorsed the first legally binding agreement to take coordinated action against threats to wild great apes. WWF and TRAFFIC were heavily engaged in the negotiation process and final text. TRAFFIC is the world's largest wildlife trade monitoring network and is a joint project of WWF and IUCN - the World Conservation Union.
The pact will function like a treaty - specifying how governments will combat poaching, support law enforcement and build legal and judicial capacity to prosecute wildlife traffickers. The Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Gabon participated in the talks. Rwanda was unable to attend.
This news comes at a critical time, as ongoing fighting near Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to threaten the endangered mountain gorilla. More than half of the world's 700 remaining mountain gorillas live in Virunga National Park. WWF is active on the ground to reduce the environmental effects of this conflict and is also helping meet the humanitarian needs of the tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.
Another sign that Africa's gorillas are in trouble is the recent IUCN reclassification of the western lowland gorilla from endangered to critically endangered - or facing extinction. The reclassification is based on the rapid decline in western lowland gorilla populations. In some areas over 90 percent of these great apes have vanished. The two other gorilla subspecies are the eastern lowland gorilla and mountain gorilla. All three are endangered.
WWF has worked for more than 30 years to protect the Congo Basin and continues to be active in the field, engaging conservation partners and protecting great apes for future generations. WWF is also a member of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), that has been providing equipment and logistical support to ICCN (Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) rangers - including a special unit that made regular patrols until it was forced out by the fighting. The IGCP is a partnership of three international organizations - WWF, African Wildlife Foundation and Fauna & Flora International - that ensure the conservation of mountain gorillas and their forest habitat in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.