Ramsar and GRASP exchange of letters
Closer cooperation for apes in wetlands
The Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) Partnership is an innovative project of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) intended to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans across their ranges in equatorial African and southeast Asia. It is a World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Type II Partnership comprising great ape range states and donor governments, the biodiversity-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements, United Nations institutions, international and national great ape conservation NGOs, the global great ape scientific community, and private sector organizations.
The Ramsar Convention, too, is a partner in the project, and at a lunchtime event during the 24th session of the UNEP Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya, 6 February 2007, Ramsar Secretary General Peter Bridgewater and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, in the presence of GRASP Team Leader Melanie Virtue, signed an exchange of letters charting the way forward towards greater collaboration.
The letters state the intentions of the Ramsar and GRASP Secretariats to, when feasible, cooperate in providing assistance for the elaboration of management plans for Ramsar sites with great apes; work together towards the designation of new Ramsar sites with great apes habitats; identify and cooperate on projects in or around transboundary sites with great apes habitat; and cooperate towards capacity building of Ramsar and GRASP focal points and site managers.
In addition, resources permitting, GRASP will contribute to the development and production of information materials on Ramsar sites that are important for great apes.
All of these potential areas of collaboration will support the implementation of the Ramsar Convention Strategic Plan 2003-2008, the UNEP Programme of Work for 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, and the GRASP Programme of Action 2006-2007.
Peter Bridgewater notes that "The GRASP partnership will allow us to help in the global project to help save the Great Apes, particularly where wetland ecosystems are important to them". He added that it is foreseen that a documentary film, based in Gabon, will be "the first tangible product from our closer working relationship".
(from left) Melanie Virtue, GRASP Team Leader, Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) Secretariat; Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP; Peter Bridgewater, Ramsar Secretary General. 6 February 2007.