Hope For Apes

At the end of 2010 distinguished conservation luminaries, eminent primate experts, a group of African drummers and nearly 1,500 people gathered in London for an evening of fascinating and inspirational talks which shone the spotlight on the plight of apes and the forests in which they live.

Pollyanna with Conservation legend Jane Goodall

Pollyanna was delighted to be among the guests at a VIP reception held before the event at the Lyceum theatre. She is pictured above with the keynote speaker, the world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall who spoke about her fifty years of pioneering chimpanzee research at Gombe Stream National Park.

“It was a privilege and an honour to meet Jane” Pollyanna commented “She is one of my own conservation heroines – her work has completely altered the way scientific studies of animals are carried out. She completely revolutionised our knowledge of the way chimps live in the wild, and she is still dedicating her life to the protection and welfare of the amazing and intelligent primates.”

Jane told Pollyanna that she hoped the evening would help people to understand the plight of the great apes, so that they would want to do something to save the apes and the forests. Hosted by conservation legend Sir David Attenborough, Hope 4 Apes aimed to raise awareness of, and funding for, ape conservation.

While the primates are still faced with the old problems of habitat loss and poaching that concerned conservationists a decade ago, these are now set within a new context of the wider threat of climate change, as Ape Alliance chairman and the first speaker of the evening, Ian Redmond OBE pointed out. ‘You can have the best anti-poaching patrols, the best protected areas and the best ecotourism around apes, but if it stops raining the forests will die and the apes are dead. And so climate change, and the things we do to stop climate change, are what we now have to highlight.’ Ian is probably best known for his for his work with mountain gorillas alongside Dian Fossey.

orang-utanOther inspirational speakers included Chanee, a remarkable young Frenchman based in Borneo, who is combining his love of music and his passion for gibbons that are captured and illegally held as pets. First he rescues them, and then he uses his match-making skills to pair them up. Unusually among apes, a male and female gibbon will mate and remain faithful to one another for life, reaffirming their bond with complex mating songs.

Only when a pair has successfully bonded can they be released back into the wild. To increase awareness of the gibbons' plight, Chanee has even created his own radio station, Radio Kalaweit, named after the local word for gibbon. Its music and message has now made it the most successful radio station in Borneo.

Pollyanna commented that the best thing about the event was the spirit of optimism. “Although the speakers did highlight the problems the apes faced, they told wonderful success stories of rescues and conservation initiatives which are actually working and making a difference”

The event was organised by Ape Alliance. Click here to find out more about their work.

Pollyanna chats to event host David Attenborough

Pollyanna and Anna-Louise with Ian Redmond

Pollyanna chats to Chanee about his work in Borneo

‘Hope for the future? Of course there’s hope for the future, but we can’t simply rely on the politicians and the scientists – it’s up to us, we have to take responsibility. There is hope in new technology, in the young people of today and in the resilience of nature and the utterly inspirational work of people who refuse to let species on the brink of extinction vanish forever.” And finally, the last reason for hope is the indomitable human spirit, especially of those people tackling seemingly impossible tasks who simply won’t give up. And how can we give up, as a species capable of so much intellectual brilliance, so much compassion, so much of all these things that truly make us human?’

Jane Goodall