Los Angeles – Dr. Biruté M.F. Galdikas, President, Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) thanked President Clinton and the U.S. Congress for passing and signing into law HR 4320, the “Great Ape Conservation Act of 2000.”

The bill, signed into law by the President on November 1, 2000 authorizes $5 million in annual U.S. aid to fund local wildlife management authorities and other organizations in Asia and Africa dedicated to protecting all four great apes – chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and bonobos. Unfortunately, all four great apes are presently endangered and face potential extinction in the next 20 years.

Chief among the threats to orangutans are the continued habitat destruction of Indonesian rain forests caused by illegal logging and illegal gold mining. In addition, the continued establishment of palm oil plantations and the use of clear cutting to open up the forests for these plantations are having a detrimental effect in preserving important orangutan rainforest habitat. Without the forest, orangutans and other wildlife will not survive.

Galdikas, in remarks about the bill stated “OFI is most thankful to the United States government for providing this critically needed funding. OFI looks forward to working with the local people and the government of Indonesia and other interested parties in implementing management plans and policies to insure the survival of orangutans in the wild.”

Further Dr. Galdikas stated, “President Clinton and the leadership of the House and Senate have taken a critically important step in bringing world attention and important funding to the plight of all of the Great Apes. The Orangutan Foundation International applauds this action!” Further, “The entire environmental and conservation communities look forward to this new source of funds to help accelerate meaningful plans and programs to protect all of the great apes.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior will administer the Great Ape Bill through the Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is expected these federal funds will begin to be distributed for needed programs beginning October 1, 2001.

For further information about the Great Ape Conservation Act and OFI’s programs, please contact the OFI office.

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