WASHINGTON-The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today approved the Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2005. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I - Vt., reauthorizes and increases funding for the Great Ape Conservation program, established by Congress in 2000 to support the conservation of chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, gorillas, and gibbons in their wild habitats. "Since 2000, the Great Ape Conservation Fund has provided financial assistance for 94 research and restoration projects in 22 countries and leveraged millions of dollars in additional matching and in-kind funds," said Jeffords, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Every year the strain on these precious species becomes greater and greater and we must ensure that the resources to protect them keeps pace." Jeffords authored the Great Ape Conservation Act of 1999, and has also authored legislation to authorize conservation funds for rhinos and tigers, African elephants, Asian elephants, and marine turtles. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that fewer than 100,000 Western lowland gorillas currently remain worldwide. Only 30,000 orangutans remain in Southeast Asia. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than one million chimpanzees populated the dense forests of Africa in 1960, yet fewer than 200,000 survive in the wild today. Jeffords' bill reauthorizes the Great Ape Conservation Fund, which receives its annual appropriation through the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, for five years and authorizes $5 million for 2006 and 2007 and $7 million for fiscal years 2008 through 2010.