The Illegal Trade of Chimpanzees and Great Apes


We are currently losing approximately 3,000 great apes from the wild per year. Along with bush meat consumption and the use of medicinal and cultural ceremonies, endangered chimpanzees in particular are being illegally smuggled from the wild as pets and status symbols. Baby chimps are cute, cuddly and easy to train, making them highly valued on the black market as exotic pets, worth UKP £10,000-15,000 on the black market. But an entire family of 10-15 adults need to be slaughtered for the life of one baby chimp, which are primarily sold to growing markets of the Middle East and parts of Asia, destined for a life of captivity.

Illegal smuggling organizations primarily work in West Africa, setting up exports of legal animals as fronts. By labeling illegal animals as dogs, cats or other common domesticated pets, the sophisticated transnational criminal networks manage to find loopholes to get the animals across the borders, including falsifying CITES documents. CITES is an international treaty to protect wildlife in over exploitation, and a legal CITES permit enables the international travel of exotic wildlife.

If, however, a falsified permit is not possible, the smugglers will drug the chimps, smuggling them in 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, stricter enforcement of laws and harsher punishments are needed, along with a global awareness campaign, so the supply chain closes on both ends.