Walk for Animals in Dubai

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PEGAS represented Ol Pejeta Conservancy at the Walk for Animals in Dubai’s Zabeel Park on 10 February, 2017. The purpose of the Walk was to create awareness about the abuse that domestic and exotic pets can suffer by uncaring owners.

The PEGAS Project Manager set up a table with reading materials on Ol Pejeta Conservancy and its Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, along with souvenir objects, in order to attract visitors from the Walk. PEGAS explained to visitors about the wild animal conservation objectives of Ol Pejeta and why there was a need for a chimpanzee sanctuary.

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PEGAS set up a table

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There was a surprising lack of awareness in the public PEGAS encountered about the problem of illegal trade of wild exotic species for use in the pet trade. PEGAS realizes that much more needs to be done to inform residents of the UAE about illegal exotic animal imports to the country and the negative impacts that this has on wildlife conservation, particularly with great apes.

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Mahin Bahrami on left and Zara Hovelsas on right of the Middle East Animal Foundation, a PEGAS partner in the UAE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

Social Media Slave Trade – a PEGAS update

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These are just some of the emojis PEGAS sees in great ape pet posts on Instagram, accompanied by comments such as, “I want a monkey [sic]”, “I love these guys”, “Where can I get one”, and so on.

Instagram users show their approval of a post with emojis

Instagram users show their approval of a post with emojis

Well-meaning posts of loved pets’ photos, especially when made by influential people, unwittingly stimulate others to emulate them by acquiring their own pet, usually through illegal trade.

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Paris Hilton and a famous footballer shown with great ape pets serve to stimulate the illegal pet trade

Paris Hilton and a famous footballer shown with great ape pets serve to stimulate the illegal pet trade

Showing children with great ape pets drives the trade, as both parents and children who see the posts will get the idea that it acceptable, even desirable, to acquire a chimpanzee or orangutan baby pet.

Children increasingly are driving the great ape pet trade

Children increasingly are driving the great ape pet trade

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Other posts are more insidious, with “For sale?” being common. The question is often answered instructing the potential buyer to communicate through a WhatsApp number or direct messaging. Occasionally, actual prices will be given in plain view of any observer.

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Some posts openly show the selling of great apes, even sometimes showing the prices

Some posts openly show the selling of great apes, even sometimes showing the prices

Some posts might even promote others going into the business, as they show dealers with expensive cars and nice houses.

Posts of traffickers with expensive cars can encourage others to go into the trade

Posts of traffickers with expensive cars can encourage others to go into the trade

Many posts create the impression that the ape is having a wonderful time and is enjoying its role as a pet, but other posts capture the reality, the despair and loneliness that the ape experiences, and its end destination when it ceases to be cute and cuddly – a cage.

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Some posts capture the look of despair on the apes

Some posts capture the look of despair on the apes

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While others show where they end up - in cages

While others show where they end up – in cages

The development of the Internet and access to hundreds of millions of new users in recent years, coupled with social media platforms and the ability to create closed groups and private accounts, has resulted in the burgeoning ability of live animal suppliers, middlemen dealers and buyers to engage in active illegal trading of protected species. The markets can be much larger than physical markets, because thousands of group members located in many countries can be involved. For example, TRAFFIC documented 70,000 members affiliated to just 14 groups on Facebook in one country selling a wide variety of CITES Appendix I animals.

PEGAS began monitoring social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook in March 2015, after reading a Zoo News blog about a wildlife trafficker using social media to sell exotic animals in the UAE.

Starting with that one trafficker, PEGAS checked out the Instagram followers, Facebook friends and people making comments to posts to establish an ever-widening network of fellow animal dealers, and those buying them as pets and prestige display trophies. There is nothing like driving around the streets of Dubai or Doha with a chimpanzee kitted out in designer clothes and sunglasses to make a statement: “Look at me, I’m cool.”

Owners commonly flaunt their expensive pets by driving around with them

Owners commonly flaunt their expensive pets by driving around with them

Even with their children

Even with their children

A few months later Patricia Tricorache of the Cheetah Conservation Fund contacted PEGAS and provided a wealth of additional information regarding online exotic animal trading. The CCF and PEGAS have been collaborating since then, building up a cheetah and great ape database of online wildlife trafficking. We see many other endangered species being trafficked as well in the course of our investigations. More recently, Alexandra Russo volunteered to help and she has found several new great ape and cheetah social media dealers.

Methodology

PEGAS conducted an update count of the individual great apes that it has seen posted on Instagram and Facebook accounts as of early January, 2017. Only those apes that were in the possession of the person posting were counted. Many exotic pet dealers and owners know each other and reposts of their respective photos on two or more other account sites are common. Care was taken to count only the ape in the original account photo or video. Some great apes are pets that owners have posted many times, sometimes over the course of two or three years. PEGAS recorded the names of the pets and took care not to count the same ape more than once. In addition, some people have more than one Instagram or Facebook account and post great ape photos and videos on them all. For example, PEGAS has seen the exact same post on up to ten different accounts, due both to repostings by the same person on different accounts they own, and/or by friends or followers on their respective accounts.

To complicate matters, some people have closed accounts – or had them closed by Zuckerberg’s people after complaints about illegal trading and/or abusive posts – and opened new accounts. PEGAS has found some, but not all, of the new accounts (if new accounts were created). Care must be taken not to count new sites of already counted traffickers as different ones. For example, @dubai.tiger closed down and reopened as @uae.tiger. This should be counted as one dealer, not two. The two sites have posted the same chimpanzees and orangutan, PEGAS tried to identify them and count each only once. The fact that owners usually put the apes in children’s clothes helps with identification, particularly with reposts. PEGAS has even seen dealers repost great apes from another account and offer them for sale. It is unknown whether these were scam sales offerings or were done with the owner’s knowledge and permission.

This chimpanzee belonged to someone in the UAE, but a dealer in Indonesia put it up for sale. Did the owner know?

This chimpanzee belonged to someone in the UAE and this photo was posted on his site, but a dealer in Indonesia put it up for sale with a repost on his site. Did the owner know?

PEGAS classed accounts as dealers (D) or owners only (O). Some dealers are also great ape pet owners (D/O). PEGAS was surprised to see cases in which dealers would sell great apes that they had named and kept as pets for themselves or their children for several months, and for whom they had shown great affection.

This dealer kept these four chimpanzees for weeks, showing great affection for them, then sold off three of them

This dealer kept these four chimpanzees for weeks, showing great affection for them, then sold off three of them

Traffickers also made reposts from sites not engaged in trade, whether to mislead investigators or just for fun is not known. Traffickers posted great apes from International Animal Rescue, from various sanctuaries, from zoos and safari parks, from animal-theme websites, and even of Koko the gorilla. Most exotic animal dealers know now that a number of investigators are watching them. One dealer in particular has started doing this fairly recently, along with making reposts of his posts made originally two or three years ago. PEGAS thinks he is doing this to confuse the watchers.

In spite of trying to take care to avoid the methodological pitfalls described above, the figures presented should be considered as plus or minus about 10 percent, as a certain amount of guesswork was involved in deciding whether a post was a repost of the same ape, or which account was the actual original account making the photo/video post. This type of work is enormously time-consuming and further work is needed to figure out who actually owns each account and who first posted each ape seen. Few Instagram accounts provide the name of the owner and some Facebook accounts have fake names or nicknames.

The posts go back to 2011, but the great majority have been made since 2014. 

Results

PEGAS has been monitoring social media accounts in thirteen countries. PEGAS knows of other countries where online dealers are based, but time is not available to extend to them. In fact, PEGAS does not have the time to monitor properly the thirteen it is currently looking at.

The most active region for great ape trafficking is the Middle East, followed by Southeast Asia. Africa is not well represented because they rarely post photos of great apes on personal accounts, knowing that their sale is illegal and that there are investigators watching their accounts. For whatever reason, African dealers do not seem to use Instagram as much as the other dealers do, preferring Facebook. There may well be closed member Facebook groups where dealing takes place that PEGAS hasn’t found yet.

Thus far, approximately 94 individuals have been found posting photos of great apes that they have at one time possessed personally. Of these, 51 are dealers and 43 are owners only, and 7 are both. It should be understood that even the owners only are also engaged in great ape trafficking, as it takes two to tango, so to speak. Trafficking consists of a seller and a buyer. Both are engaged in illegal trade (although the CITES Secretariat made an exception for China in one infamous trafficking case involving up to 150 great apes). The actual names and contacts are known for 45-50 of these.

The 94 individuals posted approximately 162 chimpanzees and 88 orangutans that they held in their possession, 250 in all. Although photos were seen of bonobos and gorillas, none of them appeared to be in the possession of the person posting them. A few of the dealers were either known or suspected of dealing in bonobos or gorillas from other sources, but the social media sites have not offered evidence to date.

Many of the dealers and owners know each other, and a few tight networks have been unearthed. For example, the principle supplier of Asian species to a large Gulf exotic pet operation was found in Indonesia. There is much more research to be done to work out the networks of suppliers, middlemen and buyers.

Discussion

The 250 great apes seen in the thirteen countries is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many accounts and groups that have not been fully researched or even found yet. Some of the more active dealers, particularly in Southeast Asia, remove the posts from their accounts after the animals have been sold. So if an investigator does not monitor the account for the days or weeks that it is up for sale, it will not be seen.

There is also the problem of law enforcement. Even when the names and contacts of traffickers are known and reported to the relevant authorities, with copies of the incriminating posts, they will not take action. They claim it is too much work to gain a conviction and they have higher priorities. Some NGOs and individuals campaign to have the social media sites closed down, but that can be counter-productive as the trafficker then simply establishes a new site and increases his security settings and is much more careful about whom he lets gain access to it. Shutting down an account does not stop the trafficking.

About the only way to be sure of law enforcement is to set up a sting, as occurred in Thailand last December. The police were involved at the outset and there was close cooperation between the person setting up the operation, the police and the collaborating local NGO. This is expensive and can take months of work to achieve. Until laws are in place to make it easier for the police and legal system to arrest and convict traffickers on the basis of posts alone, the undercover sting will remain the only option.

It took weeks of undercover work to set up the sting

It took weeks of undercover work to set up the sting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the work and expense paid off with the arrest of a trafficker. The basket carrying the two babies can be seen in the lower left

But the work and expense paid off with the arrest of a trafficker. The basket carrying the two babies can be seen in the lower left

 

A Thai police photo of the captured infants

A Thai police photo of the rescued infants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
If one considers how many great apes were killed during the capture of the infants and how many infants would have died during transport, the 250 successfully smuggled great apes probably represent about 2,000 killed.

Infant orangutans rescued in police sting

PEGAS has obtained the inside story of a joint Thai police and Freeland sting on a major wildlife trafficking network operating in South East Asia.

In police custody after the sting.

In police custody after the sting.

The Bangkok Post reported on 24th December that two baby orangutans had been seized and a trafficker arrested in Bangkok. The press report and a video story put out by the Associated Press stated that undercover police officers had arranged to buy the babies using a mobile phone app, but according to an anonymous source who wishes to be called ‘Nick’, the operation was much more complicated than the initial stories suggested.

“I live in Phuket,” Nick told PEGAS, referring to an island in the south of Thailand. “One day I and my partner Jeffrey visited the Phuket Zoo. We saw these two adorable baby orangutans there. The zookeeper let us hold them and have our photos taken with them. We just fell in love with them.”

Nick and Jeffrey hired an agent to find them two infant orangutans that they could buy as pets. The agent found what they were looking for on the Instagram account of a notorious wild animal trafficker, known to PEGAS first as @exoticpet88 and later as @exoticpetworld. Both accounts have now been closed as the owner has gone into hiding.

“He said his name was Tom,” Nick told PEGAS. “He was so polite, always saying ‘sir’ when he addressed me.”

This Instagram account advertised hundreds of exotic species for sale, many CITES Appendix I, which prohibits such commercial trade.

This Instagram account advertised hundreds of exotic species for sale, many CITES Appendix I, which prohibits such commercial trade.

 

 

 

Exoticpetworld replaced exoticpet88. These are the two orangutans that were eventually seized in the Bangkok sting.

Exoticpetworld replaced exoticpet88. These are the two orangutans that were eventually seized in the Bangkok sting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom sent Nick several photos of the babies using WhatsApp.

Tom sent Nick several photos of the babies using WhatsApp.

Tom asked USD 20,000 for the two orangutan babies. Nick agreed.

Tom asked USD 20,000 for the two orangutan babies. Nick agreed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trafficker arrested.

The trafficker arrested.

 

 

 
 

 

More to come after the Thai police conclude their investigations.

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.