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Experts Gather to Try to Rescue Great Apes

Hundreds of conservationists and government policymakers from around the world have gathered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an effort to find ways to save the world's great apes -- humans' closest relatives. Wildlife experts warn poaching and logging will wipe out all the remaining gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos unless action is taken now.

World's great apes may be humans' closest living ancestors but high levels of logging and poaching, combined with human encroachment into their habitats, have put their survival in serious doubt.

Unless urgent action is taken, conservationists at a conference in Congo Monday warned, all

species of apes run the risk of becoming extinct within 50 years.

Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos live in the jungles of Africa and orangutans in Southeast Asia.

Hundreds of conservationists from countries around the world have gathered in Kinshasa -- the

capital of the Congo, itself home to three of the four ape species -- in an attempt to save the

apes. Over a week-long session, they hope to come up with new initiatives to save the apes.

Keynote speakers stressed the importance of apes in providing the link between humans and the

rest of the animal kingdom and in helping to understand human development.

As Dr. Richard Leakey, a renowned paleontologist and conservationist, put it, . It is important to remember that we are talking about the future of a member of our family not a strange creature that lives in the jungle."