A story published on 16 March 2016 in the Doha News reported that a man was apprehended trying to sell a baby chimpanzee by a patrol from the Department of Environmental Protection. No details were given, but if a patrol saw it the man must have been trying to sell it outdoors. A person commenting on the story said that he had once seen it at the Wakra roundabout in Doha.
A photograph accompanying the story showed a miserable baby chimpanzee on a car seat wearing a child’s pajamas. The pajamas looked familiar.
One of the online traffickers PEGAS has been monitoring, located in Qatar, posted a video on 18 February of the baby chimpanzee that was later seized. The pajamas are identical with those in the newspaper report and the size and facial characteristics of the infant in the photograph and video are the same.
The commentary displayed on the video post shows that the man was offering the chimpanzee for sale for 75,000 Qatar rials (about USD 20,600). It looked like he had a buyer, as one commentator asked that the dealer call him at a number provided. Apparently, the deal was not concluded. He also advertised it for sale on a Kuwaiti traffickers post on 29 February.
Another infant chimpanzee was seized in November last year in Doha and the trafficker was arrested, though no further information is currently available on what has happened to the accused or the chimpanzee. The article said that the chimpanzee was sent to the Doha Zoo, but the zoo closed in 2012. Some animals are being moved to the Al Khor Park, and others were supposed to be moved to shelters in Rawdat Al Faras farm, but the fate of the two infant chimpanzees is unknown.
There were three other adult chimps already living in Doha Zoo (Rita, Timmy and Tina) and what has become of them is also unknown. PEGAS is making enquiries.
Qatar is currently constructing a new zoo and safari park that is supposed to be the biggest in the region. The new zoo will cover 75 hectares, seven times the size of the current facility, and it will be divided into several regions representing the natural and climatic features of three continents, with a planned 3,000 animals. There will be a combination of drive and walk through exhibits and other facilities. It is expected to open at the end of 2017.
This joins the safari park type expansions of the Dubai and Al Ain zoos in the UAE. Thousands of wild animals are pouring into the Gulf region to supply these new developments. Conservationists concerned about illegal wildlife trade need to monitor the sourcing of these animals carefully.
A government spokesman said that the new Doha Zoo “will be an entertainment outlet for the country’s residents and tourists”. PEGAS hopes that the “entertainment” does not take after what is seen in some places in East Asia, where great ape infants are used as photo props with visitors and juveniles are trained to perform in front of fee-paying audiences. Will this be the fate of the two chimpanzee infants?
PEGAS has written to the Qatari CITES office enquiring about the possibility of relocating the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, but has yet to receive a response. There is precedence. In 2001 two baby chimpanzees smuggled in to Qatar with a shipment of birds from Nigeria were sent to Chimfunshi sanctuary in Zambia.
If you would like to help, please write to:
Mr. Fawaz Al-Sowaidi
Director of Protected Areas and Wildlife Department
Head of CITES Management Authority
P.O. Box 7634
Politely enquire about the fate of the two seized chimpanzee infants and respectfully suggest that they should be sent to an appropriate facility that can offer secure and nurturing care in the company of other chimpanzees. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is one of the few wildlife establishments in the world that can offer to cover all transport costs, through the PEGAS project, and lifetime care for chimpanzees in need of a home.