The purpose of such a network facilitator is harbour co-operation within the European wildlife conservation community, and to promote education, research and progressive conservation. Since the turn of the millennium EAZA has been involved in annual conservation campaigns that have addressed issues such as the bush-meat trade, population losses in iconic animals such as the big cats with the last campaign focussing on carnivore loss Europe wide.
Throughout 2011 the EAZA are running the ape campaign. The six species of great apes and the sixteen species of gibbons are under threat from hunting, deforestation and disease. It is our moral obligation to ensure the survival of some of our earths most iconic and beautiful animal species. From the lowlands of the Congo to the forests of Vietnam, these primates need protection now more than ever and the purpose of the EAZA Ape campaign is to raise the awareness of the survival struggle of these animals and raise much required funds to aid in their conservation efforts. All of the apes are threatened and almost all are either endangered or critically endangered which emphasizes the need to improve upon our efforts at preserving them.
Whilst we do not house any of the great Ape species here at Fota, we have three species of the lesser apes, or Gibbons. Gibbons live in family groups and our Gibbons at Fota have been successfully breeding over the past two decades, thus serving to raise awareness of the plight of their relations overseas. The natural distribution of Gibbons stretches throughout South East Asia from Southern China and Burma to Borneo and Sumatra. The seven crested Gibbon Species which are found only Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and southern China are amongst the world’s most endangered primates, with the Hainan gibbon believed to be numbered at just 20 remaining individuals. One of these species has only been described by science as late as 2010, the danger of losing it soon after its classification being a notable example of possible biodiversity loss.
The fact that all the Gibbon species have almost no natural predators automatically tells us that it is our own actions that are contributing to their untimely decline. By participating in such a campaign we hope to aid EAZA in providing the impetus for regulatory change that may aid in the survival of these incredible species.
Visitors to Fota are lucky enough to observe our gibbons readily and throughout Ape Week we will be putting emphasis on our gibbon species by providing information throughout the day on our three families.
Additional information can be found at http://www.apecampaign.org/