News / Africa

Report: Widespread Trafficking of Great Apes

At least 3,000 great apes believed trafficked every year. Credit: GRASP
At least 3,000 great apes believed trafficked every year. Credit: GRASP

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
It’s estimated at least 3,000 great apes are illegally seized and sold every year. For every ape that is captured alive, many others are slaughtered. A new report Tuesday says law enforcement is undermanned and too poorly equipped to stop it.


The report, "Stolen Apes," was released in Thailand at the 16th meeting of CITES -- formally known as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Doug Cress, coordinator of the Great Apes Survival Partnership, or GRASP, said the report is, what’s called, a rapid response assessment.

“We were aware that there were a great number of chimpanzees, for instance, going out of Guinea into China -- that there were a great number of orangutans moving out of Indonesia into Thailand. And yet we had no baseline data to really tell us how bad this problem was. And everybody who works in conservation of great apes had this sense of something terrible was happening, but we didn’t have any numbers to tell the story.”

The report said that over the past decade great apes have become a very lucrative commodity. For example, an illegally seized chimpanzee is worth about $25,000 in China.
International trafficking of great apes is on the rise. Credit: GRASPInternational trafficking of great apes is on the rise. Credit: GRASP
x
International trafficking of great apes is on the rise. Credit: GRASP
International trafficking of great apes is on the rise. Credit: GRASP

“We’re talking about live great apes here. This is the issue that they have become such a commodity, for instance, in Asia and the Middle East. They’re prized as pets. They’re used in breeding centers. They’re used in bio-medical research. They’re used in tourist attractions. There’s such a demand for them that it’s worth the risk of trafficking in live great apes. When you talk of ivory you’re talking about a dead animal at that point. With great apes we’re talking about a living, breathing animal that is very much like a human being in what it needs to survive,” said Cress.

Cress said there is massive loss of life when a great ape is captured.

“He represents probably at least 10 others that died to get him that far because hunters can’t walk into a forest and pick up a chimpanzee. You have to kill every other chimpanzee in the group to get one – one baby – and take it away. Because chimpanzees, just like a human being, will fight to protect their groups,” he said.

The days of individual poachers are over. Cress says poaching of great apes is mostly done by sophisticated organized crime.

“It’s clearly driven by criminal networks that are far better armed, far better sourced, far better funded and far more creative, frankly, than law enforcement is. And in terms of great apes for sure they are winning that war right now. Between 2005 and 2007, we tracked 22,000 thousand great apes that were moved illegally around the world. Only 27 arrests occurred,” said Cress.

Traffickers often transport the apes from country to country in Africa before getting them off of the continent. Cress said it’s usually inhumane.

“They are stuffed into crates and labeled as dogs. They’re put into hidden compartments. They’re wrapped up inside bags full of drugs. They stuffed into cardboard cartons. We’ve had two that were end-to-end in a cardboard poster tube. And the only reason they were discovered is the tube began to move on a conveyer belt in an odd fashion in an airport in the Middle East. The guy opened the tube and two chimpanzee babies popped out.”

The report, "Stolen Apes," says it’s not enough to crackdown in countries where poaching occurs. The demand for great apes in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere must be stopped. It recommends poachers be arrested and prosecuted and given long prison terms if convicted.

It also recommends countries confiscate trafficked great apes and return them to their home countries within eight weeks. Home can be determined by DNA tests. Once returned they can be brought to sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers.

Cress said the great ape most likely to die from being trafficked is the seemingly fierce and powerful gorilla.

“Gorillas are actually the most fragile ape of all. And we find the numbers abnormally high in terms of gorillas that die as a result of illegal trade because they’re so stressed. They don’t handle the trauma of capture at all well. Gorillas tend to give up and it used to be said that they died of broken hearts. They just seem to give up hope and they just collapse,” he said.

Cress said that trafficking in great apes is morally wrong. But he also says it’s bad for the environment. For example, he says when chimpanzees disappear from a forest, the health of the forest declines.

The trafficking of great apes is nothing new. Apes are found in Egyptian hieroglyphics and they were valued even in the days of King Solomon.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs