Category Archives: chimpanzee

New interest in illegal Great Ape trade

The BBC recently released the results of a 12-month investigation entitled ‘The secret trade in baby chimps’. It was on World Service radio and television repeatedly all day the 30th of January and was accompanied by an excellent story by David Shukman and Sam Piranty on the BBC News website. Shukman has followed up with a thoughtful, more analytic story on how humans treat great apes in general and a 30-minute documentary ‘The Chimp Smugglers’.

The public reacted viscerally and vociferously to the story and to the heart-rending video of little Nemley Junior, an infant chimpanzee rescued during the sting. My Facebook pages were full of comments expressing outrage, anger, shock, sadness. Born Free’s president Will Travers blogged on National Geographic’s Voice for Wildlife about it.

Little Nemley Junior, seized during the sting. (BBC)

Little Nemley Junior, seized during the sting. (BBC)

 
But why did BBC call it ‘the secret trade’? It’s not a secret. Apparently to them it was, but the UN report Stolen Apes was released almost four years ago and it revealed in detail the trafficking in little ape babies for use as pets and money-makers in zoos and safari parks. PEGAS has published several articles on it in Africa Geographic, Mongabay.com and elsewhere, and Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Paris-Match the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and others have reported on it, with The Dodo even publishing many of PEGAS’s disturbing photographs of the stolen ape babies.

PEGAS was even involved in a sting very similar to the one that the BBC pulled off, which so far has netted three people involved in trying to sell two orangutan babies that were smuggled from Indonesia to Thailand. AP posted a brief video story on it and the Bangkok Post reported it, but most of the large news outlets like the New York Times, CNN and Sky ignored it, even though technically it was a bigger story than BBC catching two traffickers and one baby ape. The BBC actually posted the AP video, but made nothing of the story.

The two orangutan babies offered to PEGAS for sale using WhatsApp

The two orangutan babies offered to PEGAS for sale using WhatsApp

The infants after rescue by the Thai police

The infants after rescue by the Thai police

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The way the BBC covered the Abidjan sting story, which involved repeated headline news announcements all day 30th January, a long news video clip, two comprehensive written stories and a 30-minute documentary, not to mention discussion of the story on other BBC programmes, resulted in the massive public reaction.

A huge thank you to BBC and to the Ivory Coast authorities. But we need more of this if we are to get CITES and governments to take meaningful action. Great apes have been ignored by CITES for several years now. The CITES Secretariat has prevented a Great Apes working group from being formed, which is the only forum in CITES where detailed evidence can be produced and discussed and where a meaningful revision to the Great Apes resolution could be made. At the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties last year, CITES even reneged on its own Decision to devise a special reporting system for illegal great ape trade. They effectively killed it.

In the BBC documentary film Scanlon tried to convince viewers that traffickers forge the permits. This happens in some cases, but more commonly national CITES offices issue them in return for bribes.

To put a huge damper on the illegal trade CITES needs to revise the Great Ape resolution to recommend that Parties (which are countries that have ratified the Convention) require that any facility or individual that possesses great apes shall obtain a government permit to do so, fill out a registration form reporting details of the ages and sexes, and update the registration annually. Each Party will submit an annual report summarizing the total registered great apes to CITES to be included in the reporting on the Great Ape resolution (Res. Conf. 13.4 Rev) at Standing Committees and Conferences of the Parties.

Currently, ape babies are shipped illegally and once in a country the traffickers move them from facility to facility to lose the paper trail (or the fact that one does not exist). Documents can be fabricated or bought through bribery that bestow legal possession of the ape victims. If permitting and registration are required upon arrival in a country, it makes it much more difficult to fiddle the paperwork – and where are the CITES permits on arrival? They should be produced upon registration.

There is also a well-developed practice of corrupt CITES officials selling fraudulent permits, indicating that the ape babies were bred in captivity and are to be used for educational or scientific purposes. If importers were required to obtain a domestic permit and register the infants on arrival these fraudulent permits could be spotted immediately. Please sign our petition requesting CITES to control the use of these fraudulent permits.

These control actions are not unreasonable. CITES has already required even more sweeping actions and reporting than proposed above under Res. Conf. 10.10 concerning elephants and ivory. Several countries have even been compelled to formulate and report on national action plans to address poaching and ivory trafficking. Don’t Great Apes deserve something similar? 

Two infant orangutans turned up recently at the Phuket Zoo in Thailand.

Two infant orangutans turned up recently at the Phuket Zoo in Thailand.

 

 

 

 

 

The enclosure where they are being exploited as photo props has posted documents claiming that they were born in Bangkok’s notorious Safari World, which twice has had its illegal entertainer orangutans seized and returned to Indonesia. Being born there makes them legal? How the Thai authorities can allow this is inexplicable.

The enclosure where the orangutans are being exploited as photo props has posted documents claiming that they were born in Bangkok’s notorious Safari World, which twice has had its illegal entertainer orangutans seized and returned to Indonesia. Being born there makes them legal? How the Thai authorities can allow this is inexplicable.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s hope that this new found interest in our closest biological relatives does not fade away.

Both Mr. Shukman and Will Travers of Born Free offered to help find Nemley Junior a sanctuary. He is currently in the Abidjan Zoo, an unpleasant place for a chimp to spend the rest of its life. If the Ivoirian authorities are agreeable, PEGAS offers to bring Nemley Junior to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a paradise for abused chimpanzees.

The Abidjan Zoo is an unpleasant environment for a chimp. Will Nemley Junior spend the rest of his life here?

The Abidjan Zoo is an unpleasant environment for a chimp. Will Nemley Junior spend the rest of his life here?

 

 

 

 

Or here at Sweetwaters, living in the African bush with other chimps?

Or here at Sweetwaters, living in the African bush with other chimps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presidential pardon: Former head of Guinea CITES office pardoned before his case was finalized

Ansoumane Doumbouya is known for stating, “There is no dirtier convention than CITES.”

He should know, he’s one of the corrupt government officials that made it that way. Doumbouya, an affable and smiling man, made huge sums of money while engaged as the head of the Guinea CITES office between 2008 and 2013. How? By selling fraudulent CITES export permits that indicated that wild-caught Appendix I live specimens were supposedly bred in captivity and met the CITES criteria that allowed trade. A chimpanzee permit could earn him up to USD 3,000 and a gorilla USD 5,000. China made use of the Guinea “C-scam” between 2007 and 2012 to import over 130 chimpanzees and possibly 10 gorillas to supply commercial zoos and safari parks.

‘C’ is the Source Code put on permits indicating captive bred in conformance with CITES regulations.

Ansoumane Doumbouya seems like a nice guy, until you learn that he has helped send thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals illegally out of Africa

Ansoumane Doumbouya seems like a nice guy, until you learn that he has helped send thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals illegally out of Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the scheme was exposed, Doumbouya was finally removed from the post, but remained in the ministry. In 2013 at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties Guinea was sanctioned with a commercial trade suspension. Not as bad as it sounds, since a C code is used with supposedly non-commercial trade.

Even after 2013 Doumbouya carried on signing old blank export permits he had kept, even though he had no authority to do so. Finally in August 2015 he was arrested by the local INTERPOL bureau in possession of the illegal permits and prosecuted. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Doumbouya appealed the conviction and was awaiting a ruling on his appeal when President Alpha Condé granted him a pardon. Guinean law states that a pardon can be given only after the conclusion of a court case.

The president’s action signals clearly to the world that corruption reaches to the highest office in Guinea and that the country will continue to export illegally thousands of wild-caught exotic specimens, destroying Guinea’s biodiversity.

A baby chimpanzee seized recently in Guinea destined for the pet market. With no support from President Condé this will continue. (Photo/GALF)

A baby chimpanzee seized recently in Guinea destined for the pet market. With no support from President Condé this will continue. (Photo/GALF)

 

The Saga of Manno

After Debby Cox of the Jane Goodall Institute contacted PEGAS about Spencer Sekyer’s enquiry concerning a sanctuary for Manno, PEGAS replied, “I have heard about the chimpanzees in the Duhok and Erbil zoos already, but I did not think it feasible to get them out given the political situation there.”

PEGAS learned of captive chimpanzees in Kurdistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere in the region from press reports, YouTube videos and correspondence with Jason Mier of Animals Lebanon. There exist numerous ‘mom and pop’ family-owned private zoos across the region, some of them travelling from town to town in old rickety trucks. They keep the animals in appalling conditions and there do not seem to be laws in most countries regulating these exotic animal concentration camps.

Erbil Zoo, where Manno first arrived from Syria, is nothing more than a concentration camp for exotic animals. Unfortunately, it is typical of most found in the region. (Erbil Zoo Facebook page)

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Erbil Zoo, where Manno first arrived from Syria, is nothing more than a concentration camp for exotic animals. Unfortunately, it is typical of most found in the region. (Erbil Zoo Facebook page)

PEGAS began communicating with Spencer from 1st December 2015. He was very positive about getting Manno freed, but a stumbling block was compensating Ramadan, the Duhok Zoo owner, for Manno. He first demanded USD 20,000, and then dropped it to USD 15,000. Spencer hoped that Ramadan would accept zoo improvements in lieu of cash, but PEGAS had no intention right from the start of compensating a wildlife trafficker. Giving any form of reward for illegally buying a chimpanzee and placing it in captivity to make money was off the table.

Within a week, Ramadan changed his request for compensation to ‘only’ two cheetah cubs. This was, of course, out of the question. PEGAS countered with the offer of a visit to Ol Pejeta and a training course of how to look after animals properly. Ramadan turned this offer down, and insisted that he get two cheetah cubs or, he now added, two zebras in exchange for Manno.

Dr. Sulaiman was acting as go-between in the negotiations since Ramadan spoke no English. PEGAS wrote back, “Mr. Ramadan should understand that Kenya does not allow sales of wild animals. ….. My project does not have funds for buying animals anyway, so I am afraid we will have to find something else that he will accept.”

In the meantime Spencer was sending more background information about Manno. He sent a photograph of Manno’s cage, saying, “When I was not with Manno he was held in a very small cage, what can only be described as a bird cage. When he was in this cage visitors … would often taunt him, feed him junk food from the confectionary & I even admonished some young men who were trying to get Manno to smoke a cigarette.”

Manno’s ‘bird cage’, where he spent his time being taunted by zoo visitors.

Manno’s ‘bird cage’, where he spent his time being taunted by zoo visitors.

Spencer mentioned that he knew someone with good contacts in the KRG. With Ramadan holding firm on unacceptable compensation, PEGAS decided to escalate. Spencer introduced Cheryl Bernard, the wife of the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad. Cheryl and her husband’s work with ARCH International, an organization dedicated to the promotion and defense of cultural monuments threatened by crisis and war, take them to the Middle East often. They are friends with Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the KRG.

Cheryl was very positive about helping Manno and said that Zal, her husband, was planning on going to Erbil in early January. We decided that the best course of action would be for Ol Pejeta Conservancy to send a letter addressed to Prime Minister Barzani requesting Manno’s freedom and offering to provide him with lifetime care at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Cheryl also sent PEGAS a brilliant Briefing Paper: The Status of Conservation and Animal Welfare in Kurdistan. She knew well the problems that Manno and other exotic animals faced in the region.

The letter to PM Barzani was prepared and signed by Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO. Zal handed over the letter on about 10th January and on 18th January we received officially the good news, “His excellency received your letter and decided to help facilitate the chimpanzee’s return…”, from Mr. Ahmed Oathman, Advisor to the Council of Ministers in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

PEGAS contacted Jason Mier to ask if he could help do the ground work necessary to relocate Manno, as Jason had considerable experience in doing this type of activity in the region. PEGAS and Jason began correspondence not long after the PEGAS project launched in May 2014, mainly in connection with Egypt, where PEGAS had directed early investigations. Jason had conducted research there after the confiscation of six chimpanzees coming from Egypt in the Nairobi airport in early 2005. Five of these chimpanzees have resided at Sweetwaters sanctuary since then (one died on arrival in Nairobi). He was the perfect person for this complicated task.

We needed basically four permits – the CITES import and export and the veterinary health import and export. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t to be.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy submitted the first CITES import permit application to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in late February, after consulting with them about the procedure and what was needed. The same was done with the Kenya Department of Veterinary Services (DVS). The DVS had previously denied import of two orphaned infant chimpanzees from Liberia, so PEGAS knew that they were very strict.

Finally, on 28th February 2016, the DVS issued the Conditions for Importation of Non-human Primates into Kenya. The conditions were very strict indeed, and included the proviso that the animal had not been born or resident in any country that had reported Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

Jason Mier went to Erbil and Duhok the first week of March to begin the arduous task of conducting all of the various blood, urine and fecal tests to satisfy the veterinary requirements. Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, a government veterinarian, assisted greatly in this.

At the same time, Dr. Stephen Ngulu, manager of Sweetwaters sanctuary and a veterinarian, was in discussions with KWS about the CITES import permit. We also wrote to the Iraq CITES Management Authority, briefing them on Manno’s background and notifying them that once the import permit had been received we would be requesting an Iraq export permit, which was the standard CITES operating procedure. We advised that Mr. Ahmed Oathman was the contact in the KRG.

On 22 March the Iraq CITES MA wrote back saying they would contact Mr. Oathman. In early April Jason informed me that Mr. Oathman and Mr. Adel Omran Badrawi of the CITES MA had spoken. The Iraq MA needed to see import documentation on Manno, so Jason sent the veterinary document.

On 27 April the Iraq CITES MA sent a letter to KWS assuring them of their wish to cooperate and that they would issue the export permit upon receipt of the Kenyan import permit. In early May KWS requested that Ol Pejeta submit another import permit application, they could not find the one submitted on 24th February. We did this and waited….. and waited. Both Dr. Ngulu and the CEO Richard Vigne followed up with KWS into July, but still with no import permit.

The DVS told us that we could not submit an application for a veterinary import permit until we had the CITES import permit. KWS was telling us that we needed to show them proof that all veterinary requirements had been satisfied before they could issue a CITES permit. We had long ago sent all of the veterinary test results to KWS showing that Manno was in perfect health. We were at an impasse.

PEGAS received word that Jane Goodall was visiting Nanyuki for a talk at the Mount Kenya Safari Club to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Roots & Shoots programme in Kenya. Mr. Kitili Mbathi, Director General of KWS, would be an honoured guest. If the DVS Director could be brought to Sweetwaters along with Jane Goodall and the KWS DG, that just might break the impasse.

On short notice all three agreed to visit Sweetwaters during the day on 14th July, before the Roots & Shoots event that night. If this didn’t work, Jason had already begun a backup plan to send Manno to a sanctuary in the U.K.

During Jane Goodall’s visit to Sweetwaters, Dr. Murithi Mbabu, Deputy Director of the DVS (centre), and Mr. Kitili Mbathi, DG of KWS (on right), saw first-hand what Sweetwaters was. Meeting Jane Goodall and discussing Manno’s situation spurred KWS to issue the CITES import permit. (Photo: PEGAS).

During Jane Goodall’s visit to Sweetwaters, Dr. Murithi Mbabu, Deputy Director of the DVS (centre), and Mr. Kitili Mbathi, DG of KWS (on right), saw first-hand what Sweetwaters was all about. Meeting Jane Goodall and discussing Manno’s situation spurred KWS to issue the CITES import permit. (Photo: PEGAS).

After a very enjoyable lunch at Morani’s restaurant at Ol Pejeta, PEGAS delicately raised the question of the CITES import permit with Kitili Mbathi. “Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out,” he replied.

Good to his word, on 8th August 2016 KWS issued the CITES import permit, and on 24th August the Iraq CITES MA issued the export permit. Now Stephen could submit the veterinary import permit application. We had that in hand on 25th August.

Dr. Stephen Ngulu, Sweetwaters sanctuary manager, holds the original CITES import permit for Manno. (Photo: PEGAS)

Dr. Stephen Ngulu, Sweetwaters sanctuary manager, holds the original CITES import permit for Manno. (Photo: PEGAS)

We thought it would now be clear sailing, but meeting the requirements made by Emirates Airlines took Jason another two months of work getting a list of certificates, attestations, letters, etc. that seemed never to stop.

There was also the problem of getting the CITES export permit physically from Baghdad to Erbil in the middle of the new offensive by the Iraqi army, Pesh Merga and other allies to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. PEGAS eventually found someone to get it to our handling agent. Middle Eastern Airlines kindly agreed to transport Manno’s shipping crate from Beirut to Erbil for free, for which they get a big thank you.

There were so many invoices coming in to pay for this, that and the other with international wire transfers that Ol Pejeta’s Finance officers were tearing their hair out. The final payments were only received by the handling agent and Emirates a couple of hours before departure. It was not certain that Manno would leave on 29th November as scheduled.

14 Bringing Manno out of the zoo to the shipping crate, Jason Mier on the left holding Manno’s hand. The man on the right, a Syrian caretaker named Abdul, became very close with Manno, as did his family. PEGAS was told later about how sad the family was to lose Manno.

Left to right, Ramadan Hassan, Sulaiman Tameer, Jason Mier’s back and Spencer Sekyer prepare the transport crate to pack Manno.

Bringing Manno out of the zoo to the shipping crate, Jason Mier on the left holding Manno’s hand. The man on the right, a Syrian caretaker named Abdul, became very close with Manno, as did his family. PEGAS was told later about how sad the family was to lose Manno.

Bringing Manno out of the zoo to the shipping crate, Jason Mier on the left holding Manno’s hand. The man on the right, a Syrian caretaker named Abdul, became very close with Manno, as did his family. PEGAS was told later about how sad the family was to lose Manno.

The KRG bid Manno farewell at a small going away ceremony in an Erbil hotel. The prime minister was represented by Mr. Ahmed Oathman.

The KRG bid Manno farewell at a small going away ceremony in an Erbil hotel. The prime minister was represented by Mr. Ahmed Oathman.

PEGAS prepared a certificate of appreciation for Prime Minister Barzani, which Spencer presented to Mr. Oathman.

PEGAS prepared a certificate of appreciation for Prime Minister Barzani, which Spencer presented to Mr. Oathman.

Manno spent the first night in his crate in the Dubai airport, where he connected to the regular scheduled passenger flight to Nairobi the morning of 30 November.

Manno spent the first night in his crate in the Dubai airport, where he connected to the regular scheduled passenger flight to Nairobi the morning of 30 November.

Touch down! Manno has arrived

Touch down Nairobi! Manno has arrived

Manno’s crate was given expedited offloading and it was brought soon after landing to the cargo area, where it was loaded immediately into the back of an Ol Pejeta Conservancy 4 x 4.

Manno’s crate was given expedited offloading and it was brought soon after landing to the cargo area, where it was loaded immediately into the back of an Ol Pejeta Conservancy 4 x 4.

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Our first view of Manno. It was hard to believe that we had actually succeeded in bringing him. (Photos: PEGAS)

Our first view of Manno. It was hard to believe that we had actually succeeded in bringing him. (Photos: PEGAS)

Manno looked around at all the faces staring at him and seemed to be saying, “Anybody got a banana?” (Photo: PEGAS)

Manno looked around at all the faces staring at him and seemed to be saying, “Anybody got a banana?” (Photo: PEGAS)

Off to Sweetwaters…

Off to Sweetwaters…

Manno woke up on 1st December 2016 to his first morning at Sweetwaters. It was exactly one year to the day since PEGAS had received the email from JGI asking if PEGAS could help free a chimpanzee in Kurdistan. (Photo: PEGAS)

Manno woke up on 1st December 2016 to his first morning at Sweetwaters. It was exactly one year to the day since PEGAS had received the email from JGI asking if PEGAS could help free a chimpanzee in Kurdistan. (Photo: PEGAS)

Manno’s case represents much more than saving one chimpanzee from a life of punishing captivity. Manno symbolizes all great apes enslaved in foreign lands. If against all odds Manno could be freed, then any captive great ape can be.

The Saga of Manno – Background*

Manno’s origin is shrouded in mystery. From his facial characteristics it seems clear that he is a central chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), which ranges in Angola (Cabinda), Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Fewer than 100,000 central chimpanzees remain the wild and IUCN classifies them as Endangered on the Red List, indicating that they have a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. They are also listed on Appendix I of CITES, which means that their commercial trade is prohibited.

Manno had the characteristic white face of the central chimpanzee when an infant. This Facebook photo from December 2013 shows him at the Duhok Zoo, aged about one year. He was probably born in late 2012 – but where? (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

Manno had the characteristic white face of the central chimpanzee when an infant. This Facebook photo from December 2013 shows him at the Duhok Zoo, aged about one year. He was probably born in late 2012 – but where? (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramadan Hassan, the Duhok Zoo owner, said that Manno and another chimpanzee were purchased from a farm in Syria that was used as a holding area for wild animals smuggled in from Africa and sold to buyers throughout the Middle East. But Ramadan said many things that turned out to be false or contradictory. Ramadan said that he bought Manno from Erbil Zoo, and Dr. Sulaiman said that Ramadan brought two chimpanzees from Syria and sold Manno’s brother to the Erbil Zoo. Who knows?

It is equally possible that Manno originated in a zoo in Damascus that Jason Mier visited in 2009, which was advertising chimpanzees for sale. The zoo sold chimpanzees smuggled in from Africa on a regular basis.

A third possibility is that Manno was born in one of the two known breeding facilities in Egypt that illegally import and export great apes, and in which chimpanzee births have occurred. It is possible to drive from the Safaga Breeding Farm in Sharm el Sheikh to either Nuweiba or Taba and take a ferry to Aqaba, Jordan, then on by road to Amman and Damascus. PEGAS was told first-hand by one of the Egyptian traffickers that infant chimpanzees were simply put in suitcases and driven from Sharm to foreign destinations.

We know that Manno was taken by car from the Damascus area to the border with Iraq, where he was picked up by a driver from Erbil (we even have his mobile phone number) and taken there with another chimpanzee. The second chimpanzee, which was emotionally disturbed, has disappeared.

The chimpanzee that came with Manno from Damascus has disappeared from the Erbil Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

The chimpanzee that came with Manno from Damascus has disappeared from the Erbil Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

The Erbil Zoo owner sold Manno to Ramadan Hassan, probably in late July 2013, as Ramadan had mobile phone photos of the chimpanzees taken then. A veterinary health import certificate for the two chimpanzees is dated 30 June 2013. Iraq did not belong to CITES until 2014, but Syria, a CITES Party, would still have been required to issue a CITES export permit and report it to the CITES Trade Database, which was not done. The trade was therefore illegal. Mr. Ramadan told Jason Mier that he knew of other chimpanzees that had gone to a Baghdad zoo and to wealthy buyers in Iran. A female chimpanzee that Ramadan wished to buy cost USD 30,000.

The veterinary health import document for Manno. (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

The veterinary health import document for Manno. (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Mier began receiving email reports in early October of two chimpanzees that had arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan, one at Erbil Zoo and one at Duhok Zoo. He rang the Erbil Zoo owner, Mr. Khalil Sabir Kawani, who said that he had bought them in Syria and sold one to Duhok Zoo. Jason then began in December 2013 an extended email and mobile phone exchange with various Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials that dragged on for three months. During this time it was established by the KRG that the chimpanzees had been illegally imported.

While this was going on, a Canadian high school teacher named Spencer Sekyer volunteered to help out at the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection (KOARP), based in Duhok. Although he had come to help out at their shelter for street dogs and cats, he made several visits to the Duhok Zoo, where he encountered Manno and established quite a friendship. Spencer was there only from 23 December 2013 to 4 January 2014, but he vowed to try and free Manno, as he could see that Manno’s future would be nothing but a solitary cage.

Manno was originally kept in a small cage at Duhok Zoo. (Courtesy of KOARP)

Manno was originally kept in a small cage at Duhok Zoo. (Courtesy of KOARP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spencer got to know the generous and energetic head of KOARP, Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, and the Duhok Zoo owner, Ramadan Hassan, during his stay. Spencer conducted a brief price survey of how much Ramadan paid for his exotic animals and established that Manno had cost USD 15,000. After returning to Canada in January 2014 Spencer began contacting all the organizations he could think of who might be able to help free Manno, without success for almost two years.

Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, on left, and Ramadan Hassan, on right, with Manno in 2014

Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, on left, and Ramadan Hassan, on right, with Manno in 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spencer’s notes on wild animal prices and trade routes.

Spencer’s notes on wild animal prices and trade routes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Jason – It was eventually established that Manno fell under the KRG Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. The Minister agreed to meet with Jason on 19 March 2014, and Jason flew from Beirut to Erbil for the meeting with the aim of getting a seizure and agreement for relocation to a sanctuary. The Minister claimed during the meeting that he was unaware that private zoos such as the one in Duhok even existed, which demonstrates the need to publicize the existence of these facilities. There was a petition against such zoos, and a Facebook page publicizes animal welfare issues in Kurdistan, but evidently more needs to be done to sensitize the government to the issue.

The meeting went well and the minister agreed that the chimpanzee import had been illegal and that the ministry would cooperate in seizing Manno and turning him over to Jason for relocation to a sanctuary. After the meeting, however, lower level officials instructed to implement the minister’s orders used a series of excuses and delaying tactics that resulted in Jason returning to Beirut without Manno. Intensification of conflict in the region made further communications with the KRG on the subject of a chimpanzee rescue untenable, so Jason reluctantly halted his efforts.

Matters remained in limbo until September 2015, when Spencer attended a talk in Edmonton, Canada, given by Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee researcher and conservationist. After the talk, Spencer met with Jane and poured out his story of Manno.

Jane Goodall decided to try and help, and her efforts started the ball rolling again.

Jane Goodall is a good friend of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. When Spencer Sekyar pleaded for help to free Manno, Jane immediately thought of Sweetwaters. (Photo: PEGAS)

Jane Goodall is a good friend of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. When Spencer Sekyer pleaded for help to free Manno, Jane immediately thought of Sweetwaters. (Photo: PEGAS)

NEXT – The Saga of Manno – Permits

*This account is based on information provided by Jason Mier, head of Animals Lebanon, Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, head of KOARP, Spencer Sekyer, and from information that PEGAS has gathered from personal involvement and investigations.

Manno arrives at Sweetwaters from Iraqi Kurdistan

Manno eating pumpkin seeds bought for him by adoring zoo visitors. (Photo: Spencer Sekyer)

Manno eating pumpkin seeds bought for him by adoring zoo visitors. (Photo: Spencer Sekyer)

PEGAS received an email from Debbie Cox of the Jane Goodall Institute on 1st December 2015 saying in part, “See below, this person contacted our JGI Canada office looking for help in ‘rescuing’ this young chimp from a zoo in Iraq…. I think Sweetwaters is probably the only sanctuary in Africa who has the capacity or willingness to accept him.”

The person was Spencer Sekyer, an adventurous Canadian who had met Manno in late December 2013 while volunteering at the Duhok Zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Spencer Sekyar, left, met Jane Goodall in Canada and implored her to help free Manno. Jane acted.

Spencer Sekyer, left, met Jane Goodall in Canada and implored her to help free Manno. Jane acted.

 

Exactly one year later to the day Manno woke up to his first morning at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Manno in his quarantine room.

Manno in his quarantine room at Sweetwaters.

The story of the monumental amount of work it took several dedicated people to rescue Manno from Duhok Zoo – located only 75 km from Mosul, where fierce combat is taking place to dislodge the Islamic State terror group – is one for the history books of animal welfare.

Duhok is perilously close to Mosul, where fierce fighting is taking place. Manno left for Kenya from Erbil airport.

Duhok is perilously close to Mosul, where fierce fighting is taking place. Manno left for Kenya from Erbil airport.

PEGAS would sincerely like to thank the following people for making Manno’s rescue and relocation possible, in chronological order of role:

Spencer Sekyer, Dr. Jane Goodall, Jason Mier, Dr. Sulaiman Tameer, Ramadan Hassan, Cheryl Bernard, Zal Khalilzad, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Ahmed Oathman, Solomon Kyalo, Adel Omran Badrawi, Kitili Mbathi, Samer Sawaf, Hawzhen Hussain, Marguerite Shaarawi, Ramat Hamoud and Dr. Edward Kariuki.

PEGAS would also like to thank the enormous efforts made by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy staff, especially the CEO Richard Vigne, Dr. Stephen Ngulu and Joseph Kariuki. The Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Department of Veterinary Services cooperated in issuing the vital CITES and veterinary import permits.

Funds from the Arcus Foundation financed the very costly relocation, for which PEGAS and Ol Pejeta (and Manno) are very grateful.

A detailed account of the Manno Saga will be posted here in the days to come.

Dr. Jane Goodall and KWS Director General visit Sweetwaters

Renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall visited Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on 14th July, accompanied by the Director General of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Mr. Kitili Mbathi. When asked if she would be cold riding in the back of an open safari vehicle on the chilly morning, with characteristic pragmatism she replied, “I suppose I shall just have to be.”

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Dr. Jane Goodall and Mr. Kitili Mbathi, Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service, arrive on Ol Pejeta Conservancy on a plane chartered by PEGAS

In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall travelled from England to what is now Tanzania and courageously entered the extraordinary world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars. But with her resolute patience and optimism, she won the trust of these initially wary creatures, and she managed to open a window into their mysterious lives, finding surprising similarities with our own. The public was fascinated and remains so to this day. Her 1971 book, In the Shadow of Man, was an international best-seller.

Today, Jane’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share.

The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), founded in 1977, works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where she first began her research 56 years ago, but also supports community-based conservation throughout East Africa and the Congo Basin, engaging with communities to win long-term conservation impact.

The Institute’s community-centred conservation programs in Africa include sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. These programmes began around Gombe in 1994, but they have since been replicated in other parts of the continent. Likewise, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which Jane started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, is today the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program for young people from preschool through university with nearly 150,000 members in more than 130 countries.

Jane came to Nanyuki, where Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located, to speak at Mount Kenya Safari Club to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Kenya Roots & Shoots programme. PEGAS thought it offered an ideal opportunity for her to return to the Sweetwaters sanctuary, which was created in 1993 largely through her instigation, in cooperation with KWS and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The aim is to provide lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees. The first chimpanzees to arrive were individuals that Jane had rescued from horrible conditions of captivity in Burundi.

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Jane looks at a photograph of herself and Uruhara, a chimpanzee that she rescued in Burundi more than 20 years ago, as they share a hoot.

After obtaining enthusiastic agreement from Ol Pejeta for Jane’s visit, PEGAS contacted Alpana Patel, JGI’s representative in Kenya (also a PEGAS Steering Committee member) for her views on the visit. Would the 81-year old world traveller have the stamina and desire to combine a day visit to Sweetwaters with an evening talk and fund-raiser at Mount Kenya Safari Club? After checking with Jane’s people in the USA, yes was the resounding answer.

Jane and Kitili Mbathi arrived from Nairobi on the PEGAS charter flight right on time, and off we drove across Ol Pejeta Conservancy to the Sweetwaters sanctuary, where the CEO Richard Vigne and other staff were waiting to welcome them.

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Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta, welcomes Jane and Kitili to the Sweetwaters sanctuary

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Jane poses with the Sweetwaters staff. Stephen Ngulu, veterinarian and Sweetwaters Manager on the left and Joseph Maiyo, head Caretaker, on the far right

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Jane advises Annick Mitchell, Ol Pejeta’s Tourism Manager, about how best to explain the mock termite mound. Dr. Goodall first revealed to the world that chimpanzees are also tool-users, using twigs to catch termites to eat

The first order of business was for Jane to open the new Education Centre at Sweetwaters, which provides informative graphics that instruct visitors about the threats to chimpanzee survival, including the capture of infants for the lucrative pet and entertainment industries.

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Jane opens the Education Centre with a celebratory chimpanzee hoot

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After a presentation on infant capture and trafficking, Jane asked, “How many chimpanzees are killed during these infant captures?”

I replied, “It’s estimated that 9 to 10 are killed for every infant captured.”

With a slight smile Jane remarked, “I always hear that number, but chimps are intelligent. When the shooting starts they just run away.”

She made her point, and I think some actual field research is in order on great ape poaching and capture.

For the next two hours we visited both chimpanzee groups, which live in large, fenced enclosures vegetated by natural savanna bushland on opposite sides of the Uaso Nyiro River. The river acts as a natural barrier to separate the two groups, as chimpanzees cannot swim.

Jane was anxious to see Uruhara, a chimpanzee she had rescued from Burundi more than 20 years ago (see the photograph above). When we found him and Jane offered him a banana she remarked, “I wouldn’t have recognized him, he’s aged so much.” After a moment she turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and added, “I think I’ve done a bit better.” I had to laugh and agree with her – she certainly had.

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Jane meets up with Uruhara after more than 20 years. “I wouldn’t have recognized him, he’s aged so much.”

Encouraged by the many media journalists who had been attracted by Jane’s visit, she began expertly tossing bananas through the fence wires. Both to protect the chimpanzees from predators – there are about 70 lions and numerous leopards on Ol Pejeta – and to prevent their escape, the 250 acre sanctuary is enclosed by an electrified fence.

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Jane expertly tosses bananas through the fence wires

Jane requested some privacy from the media and other observers because she wanted a moment alone with the Sweetwaters caretakers. Some of these dedicated and professional staff have been with Sweetwaters since the beginning and Jane wanted to hear from them how the chimpanzees had been faring, what problems there might be, to hear stories of the individual chimpanzees that she had known from many years ago and to share her thoughts and observations with them. To take time out to do this demonstrates the thoughtfulness and care for others that this extraordinary woman has.

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Jane shares a private moment with the Sweetwaters sanctuary staff to talk about the chimpanzees

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Richard Vigne presented Jane with an honorary chimpanzee adoption kit

We then proceeded to visit the last three Northern White Rhinos left on the planet. Kitili Mbathi had yet to see them, so was particularly interested in finding out more about their situation. Attempts are being made to breed new offspring, but the single male, Sudan, is 43 and beyond mating capabilities – his age is equivalent to over 90 years for a human.

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Kitili Mbathi meets Sudan, the last male Northern White rhino on Earth

I was astounded to see Jane Goodall appear, she had walked the 300 metres or so from Morani’s restaurant, where we were to have lunch, under the hot sun to meet Sudan. The woman’s curiosity and energy know no bounds.

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Jane also meets Sudan, and gives him an affectionate rub

During lunch at Morani’s PEGAS had the opportunity to discuss the project and what we are trying to do and hope to achieve. Jane and Kitili were both very supportive and hopefully we can cooperate closely to achieve results in various planned actions in the near future.

It was an honour and great pleasure to host two such positive, outspoken and yet modest advocates for wildlife conservation at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

 

Thailand not a ‘Land of Smiles’ for great apes

Thailand tourist promos advertise the country as the Land of Smiles, because the people are so welcoming and friendly. But a recent visit to Thailand by the head of PEGAS (the Project to End Great Slavery) turned up dozens of great apes that definitely were not in the mood to smile.

PEGAS found chimpanzees, orangutans and a gorilla held captive in appalling conditions, and many were being used in commercial activities such as circus type performances and props in pay-for-play photo sessions with visitors.

Top of the list of great ape horror shows were Safari World, Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo and Pata Zoo. None of these privately owned facilities are strangers to criticism and bad publicity. Many press articles and NGO reports and campaigns have been directed at them. What is surprising is that they continue to operate as if nothing had happened.

Safari World, for example, located less than an hour from downtown Bangkok, puts on a daily Orang Utan Show that gathers large crowds. Seven juvenile orangutans dress up as rock stars and pretend to play instruments while a young female obscenely go-go dances to blared music. Following the music show, orangutans engage in a boxing match, while a very young chimpanzee rushes in and out acting the clown.

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Hundreds of people pay to watch captive great apes perform at Safari World.

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Where did these apes originate? Not a single one could have been legally imported, according to the CITES Trade Database. Just as important, performances like that are illegal under Thai law. In 2004 the government seized 48 orangutans at Safari World for exactly the same offense and returned them to Indonesia, where they were met at the Jakarta airport by the Indonesian president’s wife.

“We are very happy to get the orangutans back,” Kristiani Yudhoyono said at a ceremony. “They belong to our vast nation…”. Now about ten more orangutans are back at Safari World.

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A young chimpanzee plays the clown

In November last year, 14 orangutans confiscated at a Phuket island zoo were repatriated to Indonesia for doing the same things as seen at Safari World. No one was charged with a crime, even though obviously one had been committed.

Edwin Wiek of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, who was instrumental in having the Phuket orangutans confiscated and repatriated, said in August 2015 that “[the Department of National Parks] decision has sent a clear message to wildlife smugglers and zoos in Thailand that smuggled apes will never end up in the trade again.”

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Fourteen orangutans were returned to Indonesia in November 2015. Will it be a deterrent? Photo: Claire Beastall, TRAFFIC

Apparently Safari World and the traffickers who supply them did not receive the message.

The owner of Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo missed the message as well. As soon as visitors enter they encounter baby chimpanzees, orangutans and tigers lined up in cages or cribs, there to be photographed. The zoo charges 200 baht (USD 5.60) for a framed photo with Meiya, a 5-month old female chimpanzee. Commercial use of great apes is supposedly prohibited if they are imported, as they are CITES Appendix I. If they are captive born, the facility must be registered with the government and receive authorization to breed that species, according to Section 17 of the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of 1992. Permission to breed crocodiles does not extend to great apes.

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Entering Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo one finds baby great apes kept there to make money in photo sessions

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It costs 200 baht to take a photo with Meiya

On the edge of the farm and zoo, away from where the crocodile and elephant shows take place, PEGAS found some rusting cages that housed a pitiful orangutan and several adult chimpanzees. Five were visible and an employee said that eight more were kept in cages out of sight. A recent animal welfare law prohibits cruelty to animals. It unfortunately does not define cruelty. Many would think that cooping up intelligent creatures in such deplorable conditions constitutes cruel imprisonment.

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An orangutan and several chimpanzees are kept in old, rusting cages at Samut Prakarn

The last of the terrible three is the infamous Pata Zoo, opened in 1984 on top of a Bangkok department store. Its biggest celebrity inmate is Bua Noi, a female gorilla that according to the International Gorilla Studbook originated in Guinea – a country that has no gorillas. What Guinea does have, however, is a notorious reputation for illegal great ape trade. The CITES Trade Database has no record of a gorilla import from any country to Thailand, thus it appears Bua Noi was illegally acquired. She lives in solitary confinement and tourists have even reported seeing her gripping the cage bars and shedding tears.

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Bua Noi exists solely to earn money for the zoo owner

The Pata Zoo also holds five orangutans and three chimpanzees in cramped cages, a long-standing animal welfare issue. It, too, puts on an illegal show, which includes an orangutan that lifts barbells, and young orangutans sit with minders outside waiting for tourists to pay money to have their photo taken with them.

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Young orangutans of unknown origin sit outside the Pata Zoo to be used as money earning photo props

PETA Asia claims that “the conditions at the Pata Zoo are some the worst that PETA has ever encountered… The cages are extremely small and barren, and the animals are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them.” PETA has a campaign to close the zoo, but its license was recently renewed, and the zoo director Kanit Sermsirimongkhon said, “We have complied with all relevant laws”. Have they? Bua Noi and other great apes there were probably illegally imported, as they do not have CITES documentation.

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PETA Asia has a campaign to close Pata Zoo

PEGAS visited several other zoos in Thailand as well, including Dusit, Lopburi, Khao Kheow and Korat. The seven orangutans and three chimpanzees found at Lopburi were living in dreadful conditions and are being used in illegal performances, but those at the other zoos were situated in well-designed enclosures with landscaping and amenities.

 

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Lopburi Zoo keeps orangutans in a dark dungeon, except when they bring them out for weekend and holiday shows

In all, PEGAS estimates that there are at least 41 orangutans, 38 chimpanzees and one gorilla in nine facilities. In some, the animals could not be seen at the time of the visit. There are other great apes located in facilities not visited. Judging by records in the CITES Trade Database, some of the apes were probably illegally imported, although some were born in Thailand. Unless the facility has obtained express permission to propagate a species, even locally born apes could be illegal to possess.

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Khao Kheow has a pleasant environment for the great apes

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But a 6-year old female orangutan is kept outside for the money-making photo sessions

Why can’t the illegal exploitation of these sentient animals be stopped?

Because, as Edwin Wiek says, “It’s big business. Influential people.”

“There are ex-prime ministers that have chimpanzees and orangutans in their backyard. These are the kind of people that are opposing us,” said Wiek.

Just as with the problem of online wildlife traffickers in the Middle East, the solution has to start at the top. If the decision-makers in power are complicit with the crime, little can be achieved. Campaigns need to be directed at those at the very top of government. Only they have the power to change anything.