The Illegal Trade of Chimpanzees and Great Apes
We are currently loosing approximately 3000 great apes from the wild per year. Along with bush meat consumption and the use of medicinal and cultural ceremonies, Chimpanzees in particular are being smuggled from the wild to parts of the Middle East as pets and status symbols. In order for one baby chimpanzee to be sent to the Middle East, their entire family will need to be killed for the trade to take place. This could be up to 10-15 adults slaughtered in order for the traders to get their hands on 1 baby chimp!
Chimpanzees are endangered so exporting them is illegal. Babies’ are cute cuddly and easy to train making them highly valued on the black market as exotic pets. A baby Chimpanzee is worth UKP £10,000-15,000 on the black market. Primarily the Chimps are sold to the growing markets of the Middle East and parts of Asia, destined for a life of captivity.
The illegal organizations primarily work in West Africa, setting up exports of legal animals as fronts and for them to include the chimps in the shipment. Labeled dogs, cats or other common domesticated animals the sophisticated transnational criminal networks manage to find loopholes to get the animals across the borders. Including, the falsifying of CITES documents. CITES is an international treaty to protect wildlife in over exploitation. A legal CITES permit will enable the international travel of exotic wildlife.
If, however, a falsified permit is not possible, the smugglers will drug the chimps before and smuggling as hand luggage. The personnel involved are opportunists and will take whatever it requires to exploit these exotic animals.
In order for this trade to be stopped we need stricter law enforcement, harsher punishment and a global awareness campaign that closes down both ends of the supple chain.