President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda opened the 21st Congress of the International Primatological Society sending this powerful message for the conservation and preservation of great apes,

“The biggest threat to the ecosystems where these animals live is humans engaged in primitive agriculture.”

Museveni suggests that the poor living standards in Uganda specifically lead to the devastating deforestation, bush meat trade, and other human-animal crisis that have brought all great apes close to extinction. Uganda is home to 18 primate species, including 5,000 chimpanzees and more than 300 mountain gorillas in the remote jungle peaks bordering Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo which are all endangered. He drove home the subject that conservation efforts would never work if local communities were not developed at the same time.

This is quite a statement to make, and I fully agree and support this aspect of conservation. Peoples around the world will not help to save great apes nor any other endangered species if their livelyhood and standard of living is so poor that these impoverished resort to killing and consuming primates and devastating forms of agriculture that ruin ecosystems for small yield. Education and development is significantly more impactful in providing sustainable conservation efforts.

I share Jane Goodall’s acknowledgement that Museveni has really put his neck out there, as the first head of state, to help save great apes and his country. This is an excellent idea and approach. Goodall commented saying,

“We have compromised the future of our youth, the future of the Great Apes, other primates and our whole planet. We need support and attention at the highest level.”

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