EAZA Ape Campaign
In 2011, European zoos will conduct a campaign for the conservation of apes. The campaign will have two targets: collecting 1 million euros for selected projects, and raising public awareness of the problems faced by apes.
For 10 years now the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) has been conducting an annual nature conservation campaign. In 2001, when this joint effort was initiated, the campaign focused on the bushmeat issue. At that time, the trade in bushmeat and its terrible effect on apes was still widely unknown. Many people were shocked by the mere idea that people would eat gorilla meat. Over 1.9 million zoo visitors signed a zoo-initiated petition to the European Parliament. The European Parliament subsequently passed various resolutions to improve the control of the bushmeat trade.
In the following years, the EAZA campaigns have targeted tigers and rhinos, amongst others, and even animals that are not exactly the favourite of zoo visitors have not been left out: for example, one year's focus was on endangered amphibians, a campaign carried out in cooperation with IUCN. Whole ecosystems have also been at the centre of the campaign, such as the Brazilian coastal rain forest or the fauna and flora of Madagascar.
In September 2010, the 2011 campaign was launched. This one is called the "EAZA Ape Campaign". The campaign focuses on all apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang-utans and gibbons.
Objectives of the Ape Campaign
The campaign has two objectives. On the one hand, we urgently want to draw attention to the dangers faced by the apes; on the other hand, we aim to raise funds for projects. These projects are - at least regionally - a solution to some of the main threats (loss of the apes' natural habitats, hunting and trade in bushmeat and live animals, and the transmission of diseases during intensive contact between humans and apes).
The ambitious financial goal is to raise 1 million euros in the course of the year in order to be able to support several long-term projects. After the call to submit proposals for the first round of project sponsoring, 16 projects were proposed; it was required that the projects have a link to zoos. Of these 16 projects, 4 were selected by a dedicated committee, together covering all types of apes and all main campaign issues: habitat protection, reducing pet and bushmeat trade and improving animal health. These projects will receive support and serve as examples during the campaign. The Dja Biosphere Project in Cameroon was selected as a gorilla conservation project. In the course of the year it will become evident whether the campaign will reach its financial target; if this is the case, a second call for project proposals will out. There are only two conditions for projects that want to apply: it must be ape-centered, and preferably it should already have a link to at least one EAZA zoo.
It is hoped that the EAZA member zoos will participate in the campaign, but they are not obliged to participate. Of primary importance is to motivate as many zoos as possible to become involved. Many zoos already have their own nature conservation foundations and support a number of individual projects.
In the present times of financial crisis, when visitors hesitate to open their wallets in zoo restaurants let alone in front of donation boxes, some zoos worry that an additional call for funds might be counter-productive. It is therefore necessary that individual zoos support the objectives of the campaign and can identify with the selected projects.
It is also important that the zoos are not deterred by having to invest time and money. Background information on all species of apes has been published on a dedicated website which is also interesting for private individuals. The website provides many ideas for activities in zoos, ranging from a handicraft corner to a series of lectures.
In addition, EAZA offers institutions participating in the campaign the free use of the website's images and text resources although, to protect copyrights, they are accessible only to campaign participants. Information signs have already been designed; they only need to be translated into the respective languages.
Get Involved! What can you do to make the EAZA Ape Campaign a success? Keep an eye on the websites of the zoos in your neighbourhood. Soon you will learn which zoos are participating in the campaign. Of course you can limit your personal involvement to visiting the zoos on ape action days - alone or with your (grand)children - and to making a donation, but as an active member and supporter of Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe you might want to do more. Maybe you want to give a slide show on your visit to the mountain gorillas; or maybe you want to man an information table at the weekend to inform zoo visitors about the plight of the apes. Take your ideas to the educational departments of the participating zoos! The zoos will be grateful for your help in enriching action days; it is hoped that this will lead to a cooperation that is satisfying and useful to all concerned!
300 European zoos have joined the umbrella organisation EAZA. With approx. 125 million visitors a year, there is no doubt that the EAZA zoos have an enormous potential for public relations work and education. Not only does the association uphold certain standards in regard to animal keeping, ethics and education; the European Breeding Programmes are also organised at the level of EAZA. (Studbooks and/or programmes are in place for over 300 animal species, most of which are endangered.) In addition, EAZA zoos commit themselves to supporting nature conservation projects. About 430 western lowland gorillas are held in slightly over 60 EAZA zoos.
Not every member of the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe and not every primatologist or nature conservationist unconditionally considers the keeping of animals in zoos as a good thing. In particular, the keeping of intelligent mammals with complex social structures and/or habitats that are difficult to reproduce in captivity is not without dissention. Such animals include dolphins, elephants and, of course, apes. If you can accept the keeping of zoo-born gorillas and other apes in well-managed zoological gardens, then it is essential to use these animals as effectively as possible as ambassadors for their wild brothers and sisters.