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Development Key To Promoting Primate Conservation In Uganda

Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda.
by Staff Writers
Entebbe, Uganda (AFP) Jun 26, 2006
Human development is the only way to promote the sustainable conservation of wildlife, including Africa's endangered Great Apes, in impoverished nations, Uganda's president said Monday.

Without addressing the needs of people, efforts to conserve rare and threatened flora and fauna will fail and only further hurt the environment, Yoweri Museveni said in a speech to conservationists meeting here.

"You cannot maintain under-development and at the same time conserve nature," he told some 700 participants from 55 countries attending the 21st conference of the International Primatological Society.

He said better living standards for poor communities, modern farming techniques and industrialization in urban areas was the best way to preserve threatened eco-systems and animals.

"The biggest threats are the human beings engaged in primitive agriculture, looking for firewood and building material but who end up endangering the eco-systems," Museveni said.

"How can you conserve the ecosystem with such destruction?" he asked, noting that in Uganda up to 28 billion cubic meters of firewood is destroyed each year. "We need electricity from clean sources."

"Some conservationists are opposed to building of power dams," Museveni said. "If you oppose building of dams, you will be campaigning for the destruction of conservation.

"The answer is electricity, electricity as the best facilitator to conservation," said the president, who has in the past railed against what he has called foreign meddling that has stopped Ugandan development projects.

Uganda is home to 18 primate species, including some 5,000 chimpanzees and more than half the world's 800 remaining mountain gorillas, and Museveni urged conservationists to spend time on the needs of their human neighbors.

"These people should shift to industry and services and leave agriculture to more efficient farmers who do not have to compete for land with conservation efforts," he said.

Museveni also raised eyebrows at the conference, which is being attended by such luminaries as reknowned primatologist Jane Goodall.

"Research is particularly important in the area of primatology," he said.

"Scientists have over the years used apes and monkeys in research to cure diseases and to find drugs. I don't know whether you oppose this or not, but for me it is a good idea."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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