Thursday, August 31, 2006

Conservation grants go to 54 countries to help conserve tigers, jaguars, snow leopards

August 31, 2006

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will award more than $3.5 million in international conservation grants to 54 countries to help conserve imperiled wildlife throughout the world, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced today.

Matching funds and in-kind contributions from nearly 100 partners, including American and international not-for-profit organizations and foreign governments, will raise the total to nearly $9 million.

"Partnership is the key to addressing the serious and persistent threats faced by hundreds of species of wildlife throughout the world, just as it is the key to conservation here at home," Kempthorne said. "These grants, coupled with the contributions of our partners, will make a huge difference in conserving habitat and reducing the threats of species around the globe."

Near the top of the list are grants of nearly $2 million under the Great Ape Conservation Fund, with matching funds of more than $2.3 from 20 partners, that will promote the conservation of chimpanzees and gorillas in Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Rwanda, and gibbons in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and orangutans in Sumatra and Indonesia.

"People and wildlife compete for the same living space," said Service Director Dale Hall. "The challenge for us is to identify ways to accommodate the needs of people as well as the needs of wildlife."

Grant support for Cameroon, the Congo, Gabon and Rwanda will help improve law enforcement designed to protect gorillas, aid in research, and promote a system to reintroduce gorillas to their natural habitat in the Congo and Rwanda.

Gorillas remain severely endangered throughout all of their range and have suffered from intense poaching, a loss of habitat and catastrophic disease outbreaks.

Under the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, the Service is awarding grants to promote a program in Malaysia to reduce domestic trade in tiger parts. The Bengal tiger of Bangladesh will also get help, along with the Indian rhinoceros in Nepal, where poachers are a continuing threat. Grant money will be used to build support for the arrest of poachers and rhino horn traders, to create an awareness-raising program for the judiciary on wildlife law and the need to protect wildlife and an education program for young people on the importance of rhino conservation.

Like the gorilla, the one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal has also suffered from high levels of poaching, made worse by that country's long-running conflict between government forces and rebels. During a two-year period, 67 rhinoceros were killed and the demand for rhino horn on the Asian medicinal market remains high.

Service grants under the Elephant Conservation Funds will support diverse efforts to promote elephant conservation ranging from the establishment of anti-poaching programs to educational initiatives.

Projects in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Belize, Nicaragua and Chile will help conservation work involving an array of species including the jaguar and puma in Belize, the tapir in Brazil and the iguana on Andros Island in the Caribbean. Other work will involve the training of wildlands managers, educational programs and teacher training workshops.

A grant to Russia will provide assistance to 32 of that country's nature reserves and parks, including help in improving law enforcement and working conditions for employees. Species that will benefit include the critically endangered saiga antelope, and the Far Eastern leopard, along with the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, cranes, storks and some rare plants.

The grants, awarded through the Service's Wildlife Without Borders-Regional programs and the Multinational Species Conservation Fund programs, provide support for efforts targeting a variety of international species conservation initiatives. The programs benefit imperiled wildlife and fund projects that address the root causes of imperilment to wildlife. The grant programs are authorized under treaties and laws that include the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds, and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

(For a detailed list of grants, go to http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2006/grantslink.pdf)

http://www.fws.gov/news/newsreleases/showNews.cfm? newsId=64816409-B545-5C29-587C2F2D5EDA4AB8

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