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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.