Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute &
UN Messenger of Peace
A Hearing Before the
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs
July 28, 2011
1324 Longworth House Office Building, 10 a.m.
Dear Chairman Fleming and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for inviting me to testify at this very important hearing. While my schedule unfortunately prevents me from speaking in person today, I am grateful for the opportunity to submit this statement in strong support of Congressman George Miller’s legislation, HR 1760, “The Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2011.”
The Great Ape Conservation Fund, established by this Act, has supported numerous successful projects to address the protection of apes, including gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and gibbons. But there is still a great deal to be done if we are to stop, or even slow, their march towards extinction.
Since its creation, the Great Ape Conservation Fund has supported enormously efficient and cost effective programs. Of course, a dollar goes a lot further in many developing countries than it does in the U.S. But even more significant is the fact that a relatively small amount of federal investment in the fund has leveraged a great deal of public and private contributions.
In large part due to the support of the U.S. government, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) has been able to attract additional funding from a variety of other sources in the U.S. and in foreign countries. For example, U.S. funds have helped JGI pioneer a successful program in Tanzania to address deforestation by working with local communities. This U.S. commitment led the Royal Norwegian Embassy in 2009 to award JGI a $2.7 million grant to expand this work to a much larger chimpanzee habitat to the south. Without the leverage from U.S. support, we could not pursue the integrated approach to conservation that we know is the only hope for saving chimpanzees and a host of other species. We are able to help local communities living near chimpanzee habitat make a living in ways that do not destroy the forest and improve their lives so that they do not transmit disease to the chimpanzees. This approach is good for the chimpanzees, for the local communities and, indeed, for all of us.
As the threats to great apes mount, the need for support far outstrips the amount of funding available. Habitat loss from the extraction of lumber, minerals and other natural resources for the manufacture of commercial products; rapidly increasing local populations who are struggling to survive; hunting for the commercial, illegal bushmeat and pet trades; human-wildlife conflicts; and outbreaks of deadly disease are some of the gravest pressures facing great apes.
Yet, the potential benefits of supporting great ape protection are increasing, as well. Grants through the Great Ape Conservation Fund have supported projects such as wild ape research, efforts to monitor the health of wildlife, and work to halt the trade and consumption of illegal, commercial bushmeat, which has been linked to disease transmission between humans and wildlife. By protecting ecosystems, the fund also protects natural pharmacological ingredients. The prescription drugs made from these ingredients have widespread health benefits and are a major driver of U.S. economic growth. More than half of the most prescribed medications in the U.S. contain an ingredient derived from nature.
Programs supported by the fund also have helped to advance U.S. security goals by stabilizing communities in areas of the world often fraught with conflict and where governments remain fragile. These programs create job opportunities and development within these regions, reducing the chances of conflict while opening up foreign markets to U.S. trade. In addition, by focusing governments and communities on a common cause, conservation efforts can build diplomatic relationships and help to prevent conflict.
Finally, great apes themselves promote the health and diversity of ecosystems. Great apes help to disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat, eliminating them on new ground. This underpins entire ecological communities. By protecting great ape habitat, we are also protecting the myriad of species that share the same ecosystems as the apes and the natural products that millions of people depend on for survival. In the Congo Basin, where four of the five great ape species live, the forests provide food, shelter and livelihoods for many of the region’s 60 million people.
Thus, while the plight of great apes in Africa or Asia may seem far away, their fate should concern us all. Measures to protect great apes impact our health, security, environment and more.
Finally, I cannot speak about chimpanzees without mentioning what to me is so important—the fact that there is still so much to learn about and from chimpanzees and other great apes. As I have said on previous occasions, future generations will not easily forgive us if we allow the great apes to become extinct on our watch. Please take this into account as you consider this important legislation.
Thank you for allowing me to contribute to this hearing. I applaud Congressman Miller for taking the lead on it and Chairman Fleming for calling this hearing so that I and others can explain why it is so important.