The star of BBC1’s Orangutan Diaries, which looked at the plight of orangutans in Borneo in the face of deforestation, will be joined by world experts in ape conservation in speaking at the crucial event at the zoo on Saturday 7th May.
The summit – which the public are urged to attend – will highlight the main issues being faced by those working in front-line ape conservation around the globe.
Leonard said: “The event is bringing together some leading international experts who are working to save endangered species of ape and presents a unique opportunity for people to come and discover exactly what is being done and what needs to be done in order to ensure they continue to survive.”
With species such as the Hainan gibbon now right on the brink of extinction – with fewer than 20 remaining in the wild – Leonard believes that if mankind cannot ensure the long-term, continued survival of our closest cousins, then the future of the wider natural world is a bleak one.
“Apes are iconic. They’re charming, they’re comical, they’re intelligent, they’re charismatic and they’re so, so like us. We can relate to them and empathise with them. They are our closest relatives. So if we can’t save the apes then how can we save the rest of the natural world?”
As the UN environment programme report, The Last Stand of the Orangutan: State of Emergency, says, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra are being cleared so rapidly that by the early 2020s they are likely to have vanished.
This means that unless urgent action is taken, their most charismatic inhabitant, the orangutan, could be extinct in the wild within ten years. However, Leonard insists that thanks to the research that is being conducted into how their long-term survival can be ensured, hope is not lost.
“The most crucial thing is that this is not a lost battle,” he said.
“Organisations like Chester Zoo are putting in huge amounts of time, money and effort to help. They do the research for us; they identify the problems; they work out how those problems can best be tackled and what needs to be done to safeguard the futures of these species. “So if we act on this information now, we can save more and more habitat and prevent further deforestation. Doing it now is far better than letting it worsen. If left for much longer, then it might well become irreversible.
“Of course, financially, these are tough times for a lot of people. But I think what most don’t realise is that simply giving a couple of coppers is enough to have a real impact. A bit of loose change here and there would make a massive difference.
“If enough people gave just the smallest amount of money, then in places like Borneo – when exchange rates are factored in – it really can go a long, long way. That’s what we need people to see and that’s what we need people to do.”
Our Ape Summit, part of EAZA’s 2011 Ape Campaign, will feature a day of talks, presentations and films and will bring together an international array of experts working on the frontline of primate conservation. It will focus on species such as gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons and bonobos.
The event begins at 9:45am and tickets start from £24 (including refreshments).
To book please call 01244 650240. Bookings must be made in advance.