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Review: Hope 4 Apes Charity Gala Evening at the Lyceum Theatre

Published 13 December 2010

“The new millenium does not bode well for our closest relatives in the animal kingdom – the great apes of Africa, Borneo and Sumatra. Without urgent effective action, their evolutionary odyssey will soon end – at the hands of their human cousins.” – read (tropical field biologist and conservationist) Ian Redmond’s slightly pessimistic words on the leaflet of the first Great Ape Event in September 2000.

Contrastingly, ten years later, the Hope 4 Apes event on the 6th of December 2010 in Lyceum Theatre was rather the opposite. The speakers were all positive regarding the future and their enthusiasm was positively contagious.

When Sir David Attenborough, the host of the evening opened the event, he got a salvo of applause. There might not be many people in this part of the world who has not heard his name. His extraordinary achievements in the field of broadcasting and natural history programmes make him the most qualified person to host this momentous evening.

The Ape Alliance, being an international coalition of organisations and individuals, working for the conservation and welfare of apes, invited five top experts of ape conservation and research to introduce the current situation in their field and to give guideline to further development and success. I have to highlight one of the speakers before saying anything of the other four scientists. Aurélien Brulé, a young French man who left his country at the age of 18 to live his dream of observing and helping primates, particularly gibbons. As he said during his speech ‘I have no degree and look where I am now’. Being invited to share the stage with Dr Jane Goodall or Ian Redmond definitely shows an outstanding person. His story highlights the importance of commitment and determination crucial to the achievement of any aim. Having these qualities we can make a difference. Known as Chanee (Thai for Gibbon), he now works in Sumatra and leads the biggest gibbon conservation programme in the world.

Deforestation, pouching, logging, mining, palm oil concessions, demand for bushmeat, climate change, carbon dioxid emissions, and medical research all endanger the life of primates to a bigger or lesser extent depending on the individual circumstances of the area they live in. The speakers emphasised the importance of the involvement of local communities in conservation work and development. Achieving sustainable development is only possible with involvement of the local people and also the global community. In this work, education of young people is vital so we do not drag on destroying our world into the next generation. Jane Goodall’s global programme Roots & Shoots does exactly this work, educating young people of all ages regarding environment issues worldwide. She has been working for decades to raise awareness of the plight of chimpanzees and became a UN Messenger of Peace.

All the speakers of the event, including Dr Birute Galdikas, Dr Jo Thompson, and other notable scientists and conservationists stressed how important our contribution to their work is. We can easily ignore the issue of the bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that they are too far from us; that their extinction cannot affect our lives, but in fact it can and it will. The apes often die as a result of deforestation which itself brings soil degradation, the loss of traditional ways of life, and long-term changes in climate. Climate change is not restricted to the area where millions of hectares of forest are destroyed because of the palm oil industry or logging. Nor do carbon emissions affect only those countries which emit the largest amounts in the world. All the speakers’ lifelong commitments resulted in remarkable success stories in conservation, but there is still so much to do. While none of the speakers expects us to support their projects with a monthly allowance, they did ask the audience to spread the word and urge politicians and businesses to change their attitudes to environmental issues and global development in general.

Seeing and hearing the frenetic applause given for every one of the speakers, who are all serious scientists, I do feel that there is hope. It proves that people want to change and want to be part of the process of carving out a promising future for both animals and humans. We are inseparable from each other; our fates are intertwined and the survival of one requries the survival of the other. Therefore, since humans are those who possess the tools for change, we are those who are obligated to prevent the fall of animals.

A DVD of the event will be available soon. Watch this site for a release date! Find out more about the Hope 4 Apes event including pictures at: www.4apes.com/hope/

Two photos above in the article by Nicholas Young Photography. Thumbnail photo of David Attenborough looking at the globe by  Kofi Ghanatta.

  • Carol Ritchie

    Those of us who care deeply about the survival of these magnificient primates are thankful there are organizations all over the world that are dedicated to that purpose. Having attended a Great Apes Conference many years ago in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I remember how much it touched my heart and reinforced my commitment to being a part of something that is so critical in so many ways to so many, humans as well as wildlife.

  • Carol Ritchie

    Comment is ok as shown above