Experts' profiles - Melanie Virtue
Melanie Virtue
Melanie Virtue is one of only few primatologists in the UN system. She has a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, a country with a pronounced lack of non-human primates. It is for this reason that Melanie came to Africa 13 years ago seeking to put her skills to practical use.

Melanie heads the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) Secretariat, a partnership bringing together UNEP, UNESCO, the biodiversity related convention secretariats, donor and range state governments, international and local NGOs and the private sector. This new and innovative partnership was launched in an effort to try to halt the decline in great ape populations occurring throughout their range from West Africa to South East Asia.

The GRASP initiative tackles a wide range of issues including the smuggling of live apes for the pet or zoo trade; the killing of apes for the commercial bushmeat trade as well as the illegal logging trade. The initiative is an avenue by which greater awareness is created on ape sanctuaries and their role in education and awareness raising; the role of World Heritage Sites and Man and the Biosphere reserves for great ape conservation and on ecotourism as a tool for great ape conservation.

The project also seeks to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples living in or displaced from forests inhabited by apes; to create an awareness of the risks of disease transmission from apes to humans and humans to apes; to create an awareness of the key role that poverty alleviation plays in the conservation of ape habitats; and to create greater awareness of the ecological services that ape habitats supply both to human populations living in their vicinity and globally.

Further, Melanie and her team have the challenge of not only encouraging the sustainable development of agriculture and encouraging the sustainable production of palm oil but in getting governments to commit themselves to concrete measures to ensure the conservation of key populations of great apes and the forests on which they depend.
Looking for a specific topic?
Climate Change
Disasters and Conflicts
Ecosystem Management
Environmental Governance
Harmful Substances
Resource Efficiency
Other Thematic Areas