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As the world welcomes 2009, Taronga Zoo staff will welcome the chance to raise awareness of the plight of Gorillas in the wild.

Taronga and Melbourne Zoos and joining other world zoos in conjunction with the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) in declaring 2009 the Year of the Gorilla (YoG).

Gorillas are one of our closest living relatives and are truly a gentle and majestic creature, yet in the wild they are under pressure for survival as they increasingly compete with urban sprawl, commercial poaching and the spread of fatal diseases. Over the last 20 years the population of Gorillas has fallen  to such a point that in 2008 the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the species had become critically endangered.
 
Living in tight knit family groups, the gorilla is highly endangered due to habitat loss and the bush meat trade (where people trade in and consume them as food). As we head into the future we will see increased pressure from agriculture, timber extraction, mining, and possibly climate change. It is a very real possibility that these animals may become extinct in the wild within our lifetime.
 
Year of the Gorilla aims to support the conservation of gorillas and their habitats by boosting the livelihoods and incomes of local communities. The action plan released in mid-December includes a range of inspiring and transformational projects available for backing by governments, business, civil society groups and individuals. To get more involved visit www.yog2009.org/

Senior Primate Keeper, Louise Grossfeldt, said Year of the Gorilla is the latest example of world zoos harnessing their collective expertise and ability to reach over 600 million visitors annually across the globe to help a species in trouble.

Lou said: “This follows last year’s Year of the Frog during which world zoos pitched in to help stop the collapse of world frog populations. Here at Taronga we’ll be helping visitors at our daily keeper talks to understand the gorillas’ plight and giving them some simple hints on what they can do at home to help.”
 
“Believe it or not, mobile phones play a huge role in the endangerment of this beautiful species. Coltan, a mineral used in mobile phone production, is mined directly from Gorilla habitat - so recycle your mobile phones to reduce the demand for this mineral.”

“Be a responsible consumer and ask questions when you’re buying your furniture - make sure it comes from an established and recognised plantation – don’t be afraid to check.  Try not to buy anything made from rainforest timber. Together we can make a difference.”

The Zoo’s Western Lowland Gorilla Group is part of the European Breeding program for this species. The group has an excellent record and is regarded as a model group.  Taronga already supports gorilla conservation with Ueno Zoo in Japan in the Cross River region of the Congo and is considering other in situ projects under the Taronga Foundation Field Conservation Grants program.
 
Watch for activities through out the year, and in the meantime visit and learn more about the Western Lowland Gorillas at Taronga Zoo.

For more information contact Media Relations:

Ph: +61 2 9978 4606
Fax: +61 2 9978 4511
Email: tzpr@zoo.nsw.gov.au

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