Given the perilous situation in which great ape populations find themselves and the dramatic appeal by UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, in which she recently declared that their populations are in danger and that “the protection of these humans’ cousins, from whom we have only a 2% difference in DNA, is a collective responsibility”, the GAP Project has asked various UN bodies and its Secretary General for the United Nations to draw up a Declaration of the Basic Rights of Great Apes.
To this end, the GAP Project, which has been fighting for the protection of non-human hominids for more than two decades and has achieved a specific law for them in Spain, presented a preliminary document of the aforementioned Declaration for study and approval with the rectifications deemed necessary – UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF NON_HUMAN HOMINIDS.
Several UNESCO bodies, including its Director General, are also calling for the great apes to be declared “World Living Heritage of Humanity”, precisely because they are species belonging to our own family of hominids, and in clear line with recent statements by Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.
The Spanish National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, the European Office of the United Nations Environment Programme, the General Sub-secretary of the United Nations, the Communications Division and the Science Division of the United Nations, the World Heritage Centre and the Head of the African World Heritage Unit are just some of the international organizations that have been asked by the GAP Project to declare the rights of the great apes and that their wild and captive populations become fully protected species by UNESCO, in order to literally fulfil the words of its director, who states that their protection is a collective responsibility.
“It is time to openly confront the kinship that we humans have with the great apes, without anthropocentrism overshadowing the scientific evidence that increasingly indicates that we share numerous cognitive abilities, that we have the same common ancestor and that, given the progress of science, we should not ignore the importance of non-human hominids in the history of humanity itself. We must also recognize that we share life and the planet with living hominids with whom we have evolved in parallel in our own evolutionary histories,” said Pedro Pozas Terrados, executive director of the GAP Project Spain.
For Pozas, the criticism that Darwin received for showing us evidence of humans’ kinship with primates, and especially with the great apes, is still in the air, despite the years that have passed. Wounds that have not yet been closed and that, with the Declaration of their Rights and the recognition of their status as a World Living Heritage of Humanity, can finally be healed and thus welcome our evolutionary brothers and sisters without being treated with contempt or as a business for our amusement. “Future generations will undoubtedly not understand how it took us so long to recognize their place in the history of our planet.”
On the other hand, the independent reports, already denounced by GAP, on the silent trafficking of great apes impacting in their populations in the wild and the falsification of CITES through which they enter the world’s captivity network, state that this is another factor of the petitions made to different UN and UNESCO bodies to be taken into account.
“We cannot continue with our eyes closed in a 21st century world, with 19th century thinking. We cannot allow the last non-human hominids who still live with us in terrible conditions to disappear. We owe them respect and rights,” concludes Pedro Pozas.