The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PASA, Doug Cress


Activist Doug Cress estimated that for every ape rescued, 10 don't find homes and die.

Activist Doug Cress estimated that for every ape rescued, 10 don't find homes and die.

As a high-flying reporter at big-name publications such as Time magazine and Sports Illustrated, Doug Cress thought he'd found his passion.

But a visit to an African wildlife sanctuary opened his eyes to another: saving the great apes from extinction.

"I didn't mean to fall so deep into this crowd," he said yesterday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium as he talked about the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance he's run since 2002.

The alliance, an umbrella group for 18 primate sanctuaries, is having its annual meeting in Columbus this week, the first time it has met outside of Africa.

Cress' transformation from journalist to activist began in 1999 at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, a sanctuary founded after a British couple nursed a wounded baby chimpanzee to health at their Zambia cattle farm.

"It takes five minutes in there to change your life," Cress, 47, said. "It's like saving your cousin or your brother. I was mostly raised in Africa and Asia and was always animal-centric. I guess you can only run so far and it pulls you back in."

Cress ended up volunteering at Chimfunshi and editing the founders' book , In My Family Tree: A Life with Chimpanzees. Then he headed the Great Ape Project, an international movement to protect the rights of great apes.

Two years after the alliance was started, he took it over, working out of Portland, Ore., where he now lives.

The group evolved because the sanctuaries, located in 12 African countries, realized they were stronger as a group than individually, Cress said. Each provides homes for African primates that have been orphaned, injured, misplaced or mistreated, largely by humans. Each operates on a shoestring budget, largely from donations.

The goal is to save the great apes from extinction, which experts say could happen in 50 years without intervention.

And so the alliance responded when the Angola government asked it to take 10 chimpanzees people had dumped in neighborhood parks because of fears they carried a deadly virus. Angola has no sanctuary, so the JGI-Chimpanzee Eden in South Africa took in the outcasts.

Often the rescued animals are baby apes whose mothers and fathers have been slaughtered for their meat, an illegal but frequent occurrence in Africa, Cress said.

Every day, he gets calls and e-mails about African apes that need homes. For each saved, he estimates that 10 have died.

The alliance sanctuaries care for more than 850 chimpanzees, 80 gorillas, 65 bonobos and more than 2,500 other primates. The Columbus Zoo's conservation fund donates to many of them, including a $25,000-a-year award to Lola ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Rebecca Rose, the zoo's field conservation coordinator.

Some of that comes from zoo visitors.

"The money a kid has dropped into the conservation wall at the Africa exhibit can end up helping the bonobos," Rose said.

The zoo's support is one reason the alliance is meeting in Columbus. Another is to expose people here to the plight of the great apes and the work being done to save them, Cress said.

In recent years, the alliance began working with sanctuaries to return as many apes as possible to the wild. At the same time, the sanctuaries are trying to change how Africans view the animals so they understand their value to the ecosystem.

"This is a now-or-never moment," Cress said. "This is nuts and bolts. Rome is burning. Let's get moving."

The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance will have a public fundraiser at 7:30 tonight at Ohio State University's Fawcett Center, 2400 Olentangy River Rd. The event features an African art auction, a documentary and speakers, including alliance director Doug Cress and Harvard University primatologist Richard Wrangham. Tickets are $15.


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