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.

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.

Great apes jilted at the CITES CoP 17

The 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of CITES is finally over. Almost two weeks of complex discussions spoken in a code of numbers and acronyms that only experienced aficionados of the CITES process could decipher.

Many journalists and NGO blogs have summed up the outcomes of the proposals, Decisions, Resolutions, etc. for elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, pangolins, sharks and rays, sturgeons and paddlefish, tortoises and fresh water turtles, African Gray parrots – the list goes on.

I have yet to find one that mentions great apes. Why do NGOs and animal lovers that become apoplectic when all elephants are not put on Appendix I – all commercial trade is already banned for them – say nothing when CITES decides to sweep reporting on illegal great ape trade under the carpet?

And this is after the UN Great Apes Survival Partnership launched its Great Apes Seizure Database. Over 1,800 great apes were seized from an illicit live traffic that went undetected for over a decade. If we assume 10 per cent of the specimens are seized (a high assumption rate from what PEGAS has observed), that means over 18,000 were trafficked from 2005 until earlier this year. Add onto that the fact that about 5 on average die for every one trafficked, that makes 90,000 apes!

Live great ape infant trafficking is on the rise, according to UN-GRASP

Live great ape infant trafficking is on the rise, according to UN-GRASP

 
“For too long, the illegal trade in great apes was anecdotal, and therefore difficult to judge in terms of scale and scope,” said Doug Cress, programme coordinator of GRASP. “But with the Apes Seizure Database, the numbers are plain to see. We can see it doesn’t take long to identify areas of concern in Africa or Asia, or recognize that critically endangered species are in extreme danger.”

Only BBC wrote about the database launch and new findings, with a couple of news services repeating BBC. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles were written about the elephant and rhino proposals, and the day the proposals came up for discussion the immense Sandton Conference Centre hall was packed, with TV and video cameras lined up to record the vote.

The conference hall was packed for the elephant and rhino proposals

The conference hall was packed for the elephant and rhino proposals

 
It’s status quo ante for elephants and rhinos, but great apes are worse off, because there was a demand in Decision 16.67 that a way be found for illegal trade to be reported to CITES. With the verdict that only Parties will report seizures to CITES, taken as a result of the Secretariat’s recommendations contained in the Great Apes CoP 17 Doc. 61, CITES will still not have complete data before them at meetings and conferences.

The new GRASP Apes Seizure Database will not be reported to CITES. In fact, the Secretariat recommended that GRASP not even establish its own database and reporting on illegal trade. There was a request made earlier on that GRASP work with the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group to prepare a great apes status report, but it wasn’t ready for release at CoP 17. It is scheduled to be submitted now at the 69th Standing Committee meeting early next year. Will illegal great ape trade be reported in it?
 

CITES decides not to report on illegal great ape trade

At the CITES 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) in 2013 in Bangkok, CITES issued Decision 16.67, which requested the Standing Committee to consult with various interested parties “with a view to establishing an illegal trade reporting mechanism, and present a summary of its consultations and its recommendations at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties.”

At CoP 16 the UN released Stolen Apes, which presented overwhelming evidence that illegal trade was a significant problem. Not only did it result in the loss of 3,000 great apes annually, the trade put hundreds of orphaned infants into a life of slavery and suffering.

Stolen Apes

 

Here we are at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg. What did the Standing Committee summary say? The important part stated that it “…recommended that reporting on illegal trade in great apes should be part of the new annual illegal-trade report, as presented in Annex 5 of document SC66 Doc. 30.2.”

If one examines Annex 5 (which you will find here at the end of this document) you will see that it is not an illegal trade reporting mechanism – it is a report of international trade seizures. There is a big difference between the two.

Very few Parties (countries) report great ape seizures to CITES, just look at the CITES Trade Database. Nor does the World Customs Organization or INTERPOL. Also, international seizures are a very small part of the illegal trade. GRASP estimates that only 12% of all reported seizures are international, the other 88% are in-country, although many of these probably would have entered international trade. And many seizures are not reported at all, except perhaps in the media.

A chimpanzee seized in Guinea. This is not reported to CITES, along with all other in-country seizures in great ape range States.

A chimpanzee seized in Guinea. This is not reported to CITES, along with all other in-country seizures in great ape range States.

But probably the biggest problem with a seizure report is that it obviously does not contain incidents of illegal trade in which a seizure is not made. The work of PEGAS and others has shown that there are hundreds of illegally traded great apes seen on Internet social media and Web sites and being displayed or performing in zoos and safari parks. There should be some reporting mechanism to take these examples into consideration.

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How to report obvious examples of illegally traded great apes, but where no seizure has been made?

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These orangutans are examples of smuggling, but how best to report it to CITES?

These questions about reporting should be discussed in a working group, but CITES will not allow the creation of a great apes working group. There are many issues relating to great ape trafficking that need examination in a working group so that a revision of the CITES resolution concerning great apes can be made. But the CITES Secretariat and the Parties have shown no interest in doing this.

PEGAS made an intervention at CITES CoP 17 during the agenda item on great apes, in which the reporting problem was explained and requesting that the Parties consider forming a working group, but we were ignored. UN-GRASP also made an intervention pointing out that CITES currently underreports illegal great ape trade. They were ignored.

PEGAS requested a working group at the CITES conference, but was ignored.

PEGAS requested a working group at the CITES conference, but was ignored.

The final outcome is that CITES considers that they have implemented Decision 16.67, and it was summarily deleted on the Secretariat’s recommendation. This is outrageous.

PEGAS attends the joint IPS/ASP Congress in Chicago, 21-28 August 2016

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo hosted the 26th Congress of the International Primatological Society jointly with the 39th meeting of the American Society of Primatologists. This Joint Meeting marked the 20th anniversary since the most recent joint IPS/ASP meeting and was the first to be hosted by a zoological park.

PEGAS submitted an abstract of a presentation entitled ‘Illegal Great Ape Trade Persists for Use as Pets and for Stocking New and Expanding Safari Parks and Private Zoos’. It was accepted for presentation in the prestigious President’s Forum, whose theme was ‘The Global Primate Pet Trade; How Can Primatologists Working in Habitat Countries Reduce the Threat’.

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PEGAS’s presentation gave a short history of great ape trade and how the nature of it had changed significantly since the early 20th century. Great apes were captured in the wild up to the 1970s for use in biomedical and cognitive research, to stock zoos and circuses, and to perform in television and film.

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The PEGAS Project Manager presents a history of great ape trade

The early importers of great apes captured in the wild, mainly Europe, the Americas and Australia, stopped the practice in the late 1970s. Because there were no national laws against it, and CITES did not exist until 1975, these early imports were by default legal.

A new type of great ape trade came to the attention of CITES in the 1980s. Great apes were now supposedly protected from international commercial trade by a CITES Appendix I listing. Parties to the Convention were obligated to adopt national laws in conformance with CITES regulations. However, reports began coming in to CITES, both in the Trade Database of “legal” trades and in seizures, that suggested that there was demand for live great apes in various countries.

The increase in public interest for great ape pets was possibly stimulated by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, adopting a pet chimpanzee he named Bubbles. MJ took Bubbles on tour with him around the world in 1988 and in the 1990s was seen with him everywhere, which generated a huge amount of media coverage.

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Did the King of Pop inadvertently spark interest in status-seekers buying chimpanzees as pets?

In the following decade and up until recently, many celebrities have been pictured with ape pets. Did this motivate wealthy status-seekers in the Middle East and elsewhere to want chimpanzee pets?

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Numerous celebrities have been pictured in the media with cute chimpanzees, further stimulating demand.

The illegal trade and its more organized nature emerged in the 1990s with a woman of dual Egyptian-Nigerian nationality, working with family members and an Egyptian doctor. They organized infant chimpanzee and gorilla captures in West and Central Africa for smuggling to Egypt. In 1997 the World Society for the Protection of Animals published the results of their investigation into this operation. They found that Kano in northern Nigeria was the centre of this woman’s trafficking, along with other wildlife traffickers based in Kano. They were capturing wild animals in Nigeria and neighbouring countries and shipping them out to multiple destinations.

Since then, other networks in Africa and Asia have developed that capture and sell a variety of endangered species, including great apes, for use in the exotic pet trade, private menageries of the wealthy, and for exhibition and performing in commercial zoos and safari parks.

Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, until recently, Guinea were central in this organized trafficking in Africa. Important branch “offices” have been set up in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere. In Asia, Indonesia and Thailand are key source and entrepôt countries. Egypt still acts as a transit country, but now dealers also smuggle out chimpanzees and gorillas that they have bred themselves.

The main destination countries for great ape prestige pets are the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries, and countries of the former Soviet Union, especially Russia. China and Thailand have large numbers of great apes that they use as photo props when babies, in entertainment shows in the 2 to 10 year old range, and then in zoo displays in cages when older.

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Great apes are now in demand for use as photo props and as performers in wildlife facilities in eastern Asia.

In the new age of the pet trade, the Internet reigns supreme as a marketing and trading tool. Dealers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia have connections with suppliers in source countries and with buyers in destination countries. They post photographs on Instagram and Facebook and the negotiations begin.

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Social media Internet sites are used today to market and trade great apes.

Primatologists gave talks in the President’s Forum on other species that are used in trade, ranging from lemurs and slow lorises up to gibbons. Under the leadership of Sylvia Atsalis of the University of Chicago, an Action Group has been created which will formulate a survey questionnaire that will be used to gather information in research areas from local people on the collection and trade of primates as pets, asking particularly about the motivations behind it. The Action Group also intends to develop social media messages that can be used to dissuade people from capturing primates for use as pets.

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Many other primate species are also sold online.

PEGAS will make input to the questionnaire that will ensure that information is also collected on the use of primates in international trade. The investigations that PEGAS is carrying out of Internet social media and Web sites is showing that many primate species are being offered for sale online.

The target date for launching the questionnaire toolkit is January 2017.

Dr. Jane Goodall attended the Congress and received an International Primatological Society Lifetime Achievement Award, well deserved for her amazing contribution to the understanding and conservation of great apes. The PEGAS Project Manager held a useful one-on-one meeting with Dr. Goodall, in which various matters of mutual interest were discussed.

 

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.

 

NTV Wild features PEGAS

On 5th and 9th July a Kenyan television station, Nation TV (NTV), featured a 45-minute segment on its NTV Wild programme that toured Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Several staff were interviewed along with the PEGAS Project Manager, who explained to viewers the tragic problem of illegal great ape trade. The video of the programme can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMQqLe5CSOs.

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Great Ape trafficking — an expanding extractive industry

This article was published in Mongabay.com on 10th May 2016. https://news.mongabay.com/2016/05/great-ape-trafficking-expanding-extractive-industry/

  • There are two main uses to which trafficked young apes are put: as pets or as attractions in commercial wildlife facilities (such as disreputable zoos, safari parks, circuses, hotels and use as photo-props).
  • The trade is facilitated by celebrities who pose with great ape pets in the press or in social media posts, which act as advertisements that say that owning an ape is “cool.”
  • Stiles has been investigating great ape trafficking for the past three years, since being invited to be a co-author of the United Nations report Stolen Apes, released in March 2013 at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties in Bangkok.

Today his name is Manno and we believe he recently turned four years old, though he is small for his age. Manno has bright, inquisitive eyes, has a penchant for pumpkin seeds and loves to run and play. He has been living alone as the solitary chimpanzee in a small, private zoo in Duhok, Kurdistan, in northern Iraq for about three years.

“Manno turned up in 2013 with wildlife dealers in Damascus, Syria, as a traumatized baby orphan,” Spencer Sekyer told me. Spencer, a teacher in Canada, volunteered to help animals kept in the Duhok Zoo in Kurdistan in late 2014. He fell in love with Manno. “His mother was no doubt killed for bushmeat somewhere in Central Africa and the poachers sold him off to animal traffickers.”

Spencer has been trying to get Manno freed for over a year now.

Spencer showed me a colored piece of paper with prices written on it. “The owner of the Duhok Zoo paid US$15,000 for Manno, and the little chimpanzee has repaid the investment by becoming a very popular attraction. People come from all over the Duhok area to play and have their photographs taken with Manno… spending money.”

The zoo owner dresses the little chimpanzee up in children’s clothes and visitors shower him with food and drink that kids like — junk food. This probably explains why Manno is small for his age.

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)

Two chimpanzees captured in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Manno very likely endured this before being smuggled to Syria. (Photo courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute)

Two chimpanzees captured in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Manno very likely endured this before being smuggled to Syria. (Photo courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute)

If Manno stays in the zoo, the day will come when he stops being cuddly and playful. He will grow in strength and in aggressiveness, as is normal with chimpanzees. If he is not caged up permanently first, he will attack and no doubt seriously injure someone. His future is not bright.

No bright future

In fact, the future is not bright for any great ape that is trafficked. There are two main uses to which young apes are put: as pets or as attractions in commercial wildlife facilities (such as disreputable zoos, safari parks, circuses, hotels and use as photo-props).

The trade is facilitated by celebrities who pose with great ape pets in the press or in social media posts, which act as advertisements that say that owning an ape is “cool”. The coordinator of the United Nations Great Ape Survival Partnership, Doug Cress, warned that celebrities do not realize that many of the apes were obtained illegally.

“These pictures are seen by hundreds of millions of fans, and it sends the message that posing with great apes — all of which are obtained through illegal means, and face miserable lives once they grow too big and strong to hold — is okay as long as it’s cute. But it’s not. It’s illegal, and it contributes to the destruction of already endangered species,” Cress told The Guardian newspaper.

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Paris Hilton holding an infant orangutan in Dubai, a known wildlife smuggling center. Photos like this on social media create the impression that it is trendy to keep ape pets. Photo via Instagram.

I have been investigating great ape trafficking for the past three years, since being invited to be a co-author of the United Nations report “Stolen Apes,” released in March 2013 at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties in Bangkok. The report documents an alarming situation in which more than 1,800 cases were registered of trafficked chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans being lost to the forests of Africa and Asia between 2005 and early 2012.

This is only a fraction of the real number, as documented cases are those involving seizures by the authorities, and the vast majority of incidents go undetected. More tragically, for every live ape that enters the trade, at least one — the mother — and more than ten can be killed as collateral damage. The number lost is multiplied again because many infants die before reaching the intended destination.

I’ve traveled to West and Central Africa, the Middle East, and most recently made a trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and China, gathering information on this 21st century slave trade. I have also been discovering and monitoring a growing network of online wildlife traffickers, who post photos of their prized wildlife acquisitions and those for sale on social media sites. Unfortunately, recent publicity naming those involved in the illegal trade has resulted in them closing Instagram and Facebook accounts and going underground.

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Publishing the names of online traffickers simply drives them underground where they can no longer be easily monitored. Composite of images found on Instagram.

Great apes are becoming increasingly expensive. Of a trade in December last year, Patricia Trichorache from the Cheetah Conservation Fund told me, “Right now there are two baby chimps about to be shipped to Dubai … $40,000 each.” An owner flaunting a $40,000 pet on Facebook or Instagram gains instant prestige. It is common to see friends’ posts saying, “I want one sooo bad,” followed by a string of heart emojis.

Dealers also use social media sites to market their wares. The usual routine is to move to the encrypted WhatsApp or Snapchat to conduct the negotiations after the initial contact is made on a photo post.

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Traffickers commonly post apes for sale online to solicit buyers. Image via Instagram.

In the Gulf countries, infant chimpanzees and orangutans are commonly dressed up in designer clothes, made to wear sunglasses and baseball caps to look cool, and are fed junk food and taught to smoke. I’ve even seen chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons, and lion cubs all playing together in videos posted on Instagram. Sometimes the play goes too far and the little apes are terrorized, which only elicits laughter from the owner and his friends who gather in carpeted livingrooms to watch the “fun.”

The typical road a slave-ape takes in a commercial zoo or safari park starts with being used as a photo prop. When they get older they are usually trained to perform in some kind of entertainment show and after they reach puberty they are caged up to become a zoo attraction and to breed. Increasingly, dealers and zoos are breeding their own animals.

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In Thailand, a large crocodile farm and zoo uses infant chimpanzees and orangutans as photo props, then cages them up for life when they get too old. Photos by Daniel Stiles.

The Egypt excess

Traffickers in Egypt were amongst the first to see the financial advantages in breeding great apes. A woman with dual Egyptian and Nigerian nationality had been trafficking chimpanzees and gorillas out of Kano, in Nigeria, and Guinea since at least the early 1990s, assisted by family members and an Egyptian pediatrician. Two of her clients run holidaymaker hotels in Sharm el Sheikh that used young chimpanzees as photo props with tourists.

Both hotel owners have since the early 2000s established wildlife breeding facilities for great apes and other animals. Chimpanzees and even gorillas are now being smuggled from these breeding centers to other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. They often go to Damascus first to pick up a CITES re-export permit, which corrupt officials issue for a price, so that they can arrive in the destination country with documentation that makes it look like a legal trade.

A baby chimpanzee from one of the Egyptian breeding facilities was seized in the Cairo airport last year during the security check, being smuggled to Kuwait, where infant great apes are in high demand.

Dina Zulfikar, a well known Egyptian animal welfare activist, followed the case of little Doodoo, as they named him. Dina told me, “The authorities did not follow procedure. They let the trafficker go and did not file a case with the police, as the law requires.” This is an all too typical story in countries with lax law enforcement.

Poor Doodoo now languishes in the Giza Zoo in precarious conditions. Dina recently informed me that his cellmate Bobo died of unknown causes, after another chimpanzee Mouza died some months earlier. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya offered to rescue the little chimpanzee and provide him with lifelong care, but the Egyptian CITES authorities thus far have not responded to the offer. Little Doodoo could join five other chimpanzees at Sweetwaters that were seized in Kenya in 2005 after being refused entry into Egypt, trafficked by the Egyptian-Nigerian woman.

9. Doodoo in Giza
Today Doodoo languishes in a rusting cage because the Egyptian CITES authorities refuse to allow him to go to a proper sanctuary. Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya has offered to pay all expenses to relocate him there, to join five other chimpanzees that were rescued from Egyptian traffickers in 2005. Photo by Dina Zulfikar.
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Doodoo with a zoo veterinarian shortly after he was brought to the Giza Zoo. He was found in the carry-on luggage of a trafficker smuggling him to Kuwait. Photo by Dina Zulfikar.

Ian Redmond, head of the U.K.-based Ape Alliance, worked with Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas in the 1980s, before Fossey’s untimely murder, recounted in the film Gorillas in the Mist. I work closely with Ian on the problem of great ape trafficking and he has tried, without success, to rescue the chimpanzees and gorillas held illegally by the Egyptian breeding facilities.

After a visit in 2015 to meet with the great ape breeders in Egypt, Ian told me, “Recent shipments out of Egypt seem likely to be infants bred at G. O.’s [name withheld] facility – if so we are faced with a different problem: essentially, a chimpanzee baby farm where infants are pulled from their mother and bottle-fed to be sold.”

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The wildlife breeding facility in Sharm el Sheikh is on the grounds of this hotel. When the author visited it in November 2014 he witnessed the purchase of three addax, loaded in the crate in the back of the pickup truck. Addax are listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN and are CITES Appendix I. No addax are reported exported from Egypt in 2014 or 2015, although 12 are from other countries. Photo by Daniel Stiles.

The situation has been reported to the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), based in Geneva, but they reply that “it is up to the national CITES Management Authority to take action.”

Overlooked Fact

The number of great apes trafficked internationally every year is not large compared to some other species, but when the collateral damage is factored in we are talking about up to 3,000 lives lost from the wild each year, which is close to one percent of the great ape global population.

One important fact is overlooked when simply numbers are used to assess the significance of this extractive industry. Great apes are unlike any other species group. We humans share millions of years of evolutionary history with them and our genetic makeup is surprisingly similar — about 97% with orangutans, 98% with gorillas, and almost 99% with chimpanzees and bonobos. We all belong to the same biological family called Hominidae.

Increasingly, as more behavioral and genetic research is conducted, we are accepting more easily the fact that great apes are very much like humans in so many ways. Just recently, Jane Goodall was quoted as saying, “Chimpanzees taught me how to be a better mother,” indicating just how much great apes are similar to us.

Ian Redmond, who studies ape behavior, says that “Great ape mothers are incredibly protective of their children, which is why they are always killed when poachers go out hunting for infants to sell.”

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All hominid mothers are incredibly protective of their children. Photos by GRASP and Daniel Stiles.

Beginning in the 1960s, the National Geographic Society was instrumental in funding the research of the Trimates — Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birutė Galdikas. These three exceptional women carried out long-term research respectively of chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and orangutans. They made known to the world the surprising fact that characteristics previously thought of as exclusively human are shared by these intelligent, emotionally sensitive great apes.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, led by attorney Steven Wise, has been leading a mission in the United States “to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere ‘things,’ which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to ‘persons,’ who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty, and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them.”

The project is focusing on freeing captive chimpanzees, because a chimpanzee (and other great apes), as Wise argues, “is a cognitively complex, autonomous being who should be recognized as having the legal right to bodily liberty.”

A documentary film about Wise’s work, Unlocking the Cage, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to a packed house and a standing ovation. It will be shown around the world on HBO in July. This film could very well be the hominid version of Blackfish, the film that brought the suffering of captive killer whales in marine parks to the world’s attention, and which has launched a campaign to halt this appalling practice. Sea World announced recently that it would halt killer whale breeding and phase out its theatrical shows using them.

Wise and his colleagues have been battling in court to free the chimpanzees Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo from inhumane captivity, and recently they gained a huge victorywhen it was announced that not only Leo and Hercules, but all of the 220 chimpanzees at the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center, will be freed and sent to a sanctuary. Argentine courts have already ruled that an orangutan named Sandra deserved the basic rights of a “non-human person” and can be freed from a Buenos Aires zoo and transferred to a sanctuary. Likewise, New Zealand and Spain have extended personhood rights to great apes.

Legal systems are increasingly recognizing that it is immoral for nonhuman hominids to be bought and sold, put into captivity and suffer abuse for any reason. Currently, CITES treats great apes like any other animal or plant species. Although classified in Appendix I, which means that commercial trade is prohibited, great apes can be traded for “non-commercial” purposes if they satisfy certain criteria.

Creating exceptions to the prohibition on international trade in great apes tacitly accepts that it is appropriate for humans to own and imprison them. Once in captivity, it is very difficult to monitor whether they are being used for commercial purposes or are being abused in other ways.

Already, hundreds of great apes are being freed in Europe and the U.S. from biomedical research laboratories, and very soon chimpanzees from private commercial zoos in the U.S. will be liberated, due to changes in laws and understanding of the uniqueness of great apes. This is creating a huge problem of where to put them, once liberated. If all commercial wildlife facilities stretching from the Middle East to the Far East are included, it quickly becomes apparent that all great apes cannot be immediately emancipated after changes in law might come into effect.

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Chimpanzees are free to roam and socialize as they wish in Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Although Sweetwaters can take 30 or more additional chimpanzees, this is not sufficient to handle all those currently held as a result of illegal trade. Photo by Daniel Stiles.

CITES must act

So what is the answer? Change should be planned, gradual, and move in stepped phases. The first step is stopping the illegal trade, which adds every year to the number that eventually will have to be freed. CITES could be instrumental in achieving this, but it is not implementing what needs to be done. Other organizations concerned with great apes also are not doing all that they could be doing. Attempts to strengthen CITES actions to crack down on great ape trafficking at the last CITES Standing Committee meeting in January 2016 were actually undermined by organizations that profess to be helping great apes.

CITES needs to put teeth into the resolution that deals with great apes. There should be a system of registration and monitoring of institutions and individuals that possess great apes, so that new arrivals and movements can be detected. Currently, great apes arrive illegally in countries and are internally transferred and re-exported with little monitoring. Zoo studbooks are often out of date and inaccurate, as my research has found. The CITES Trade Database records only a small fraction of great apes that are traded internationally.

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The Orangutan Show at a safari park in the suburbs of Bangkok, Thailand, has been making use of trafficked great apes from Indonesia for years. Thai law prohibits these performances, which include boxing matches, and dozens of orangutans have even been seized and returned to Indonesia, but the safari park replaces them and carries on. There is no system of registration and monitoring in place, which would prevent such abuses. Photos by Daniel Stiles.

Will Manno and others like him ever be freed to live with others of his kind in a sanctuary, enjoying social life, natural vegetation, and security? Will the day ever come when unthinking people will realize that chimpanzees and orangutans are not playthings and objects of entertainment? They are our family members.

As Dame Jane Goodall says, “In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes.”

Author’s note: All social media photographs in this article are screen shots from accounts open to the public. In May of 2014 I began working with a project funded by the Arcus Foundation called the Project to End Great Ape Slavery — PEGAS for short. The project is sponsored by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and it works in association with the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. See FreeTheApes.org. I am also Coordinator of the Ape Alliance Great Ape Trade Working Group. I invite readers to visit our page and sign the pledge to never use a great ape as a pet.

Great ape trafficking to Qatar for pets – and safari parks?

A story published on 16 March 2016 in the Doha News reported that a man was apprehended trying to sell a baby chimpanzee by a patrol from the Department of Environmental Protection. No details were given, but if a patrol saw it the man must have been trying to sell it outdoors. A person commenting on the story said that he had once seen it at the Wakra roundabout in Doha.

A photograph accompanying the story showed a miserable baby chimpanzee on a car seat wearing a child’s pajamas. The pajamas looked familiar.

One of the online traffickers PEGAS has been monitoring, located in Qatar, posted a video on 18 February of the baby chimpanzee that was later seized. The pajamas are identical with those in the newspaper report and the size and facial characteristics of the infant in the photograph and video are the same.

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The baby chimpanzee seized in Doha in mid March 2016

 

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This is the seized chimpanzee. This video post from 29 February demonstrates that a dealer was offering the chimpanzee for sale online for 75,000 rials, about USD 20,600.

The commentary displayed on the video post shows that the man was offering the chimpanzee for sale for 75,000 Qatar rials (about USD 20,600). It looked like he had a buyer, as one commentator asked that the dealer call him at a number provided. Apparently, the deal was not concluded. He also advertised it for sale on a Kuwaiti traffickers post on 29 February.

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The dealer in Doha posted that he had a chimpanzee for sale on an Instagram page of a trafficker based in Kuwait.

Another infant chimpanzee was seized in November last year in Doha and the trafficker was arrested, though no further information is currently available on what has happened to the accused or the chimpanzee. The article said that the chimpanzee was sent to the Doha Zoo, but the zoo closed in 2012. Some animals are being moved to the Al Khor Park, and others were supposed to be moved to shelters in Rawdat Al Faras farm, but the fate of the two infant chimpanzees is unknown.

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Another infant chimpanzee seized in Doha in November 2015. (Photo: The Peninsula newspaper)

There were three other adult chimps already living in Doha Zoo (Rita, Timmy and Tina) and what has become of them is also unknown. PEGAS is making enquiries.

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Rita, Timmy and Tina, three chimpanzees about 15 years old in Doha Zoo. (Photo: Hilda Tresz)

Qatar is currently constructing a new zoo and safari park that is supposed to be the biggest in the region. The new zoo will cover 75 hectares, seven times the size of the current facility, and it will be divided into several regions representing the natural and climatic features of three continents, with a planned 3,000 animals. There will be a combination of drive and walk through exhibits and other facilities. It is expected to open at the end of 2017.

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Schema of the new 75-hectare Doha Zoo planned to hold 3,000 animals. How many will be great apes and where will they come from?

This joins the safari park type expansions of the Dubai and Al Ain zoos in the UAE. Thousands of wild animals are pouring into the Gulf region to supply these new developments. Conservationists concerned about illegal wildlife trade need to monitor the sourcing of these animals carefully.

A government spokesman said that the new Doha Zoo “will be an entertainment outlet for the country’s residents and tourists”. PEGAS hopes that the “entertainment” does not take after what is seen in some places in East Asia, where great ape infants are used as photo props with visitors and juveniles are trained to perform in front of fee-paying audiences. Will this be the fate of the two chimpanzee infants?

PEGAS has written to the Qatari CITES office enquiring about the possibility of relocating the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, but has yet to receive a response. There is precedence. In 2001 two baby chimpanzees smuggled in to Qatar with a shipment of birds from Nigeria were sent to Chimfunshi sanctuary in Zambia.

If you would like to help, please write to:

Mr. Fawaz Al-Sowaidi
Director of Protected Areas and Wildlife Department
Head of CITES Management Authority
P.O. Box 7634
Doha, QATAR
Email: fasowaidi@moe.gov.qa

Politely enquire about the fate of the two seized chimpanzee infants and respectfully suggest that they should be sent to an appropriate facility that can offer secure and nurturing care in the company of other chimpanzees. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is one of the few wildlife establishments in the world that can offer to cover all transport costs, through the PEGAS project, and lifetime care for chimpanzees in need of a home.

Stay tuned.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

PEGAS attends CITES 66th Standing Committee meeting

The 66th meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES was held 11-15th January 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Standing Committee is an important body in the functioning of CITES. It “provides policy guidance to the Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat’s budget. Beyond these key roles, it coordinates and oversees … the work of other committees and working groups; carries out tasks given to it by the Conference of the Parties; and drafts resolutions for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.”

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The 66th CITES Standing Committee meeting had over 400 participants

The Standing Committee (SC) also initiates action to suspend trade as a sanction against Parties (i.e. countries belonging to the Convention) that do not comply with important recommendations. Certain ‘recommendations’ contained in Resolutions and Decisions are in fact requirements, but CITES does not use undiplomatic words such as ‘require’ or ‘command’.

The SC is the best place to initiate any new actions within CITES to address the illegal trade of great apes or any other species. The entire membership of CITES is now 182 Parties, while the SC is made up of only 35 Parties (including the SC host country, and previous and next Conference of the Parties host countries), most of which rotate. It is more efficient to get things done with 35 SC Party members than with 182 at a Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is held every 2-and-a-half to 3 years. Fewer than 500 participants attend a SC meeting, thousands attend a CoP.

The preparatory work of examining illegal trade evidence, identifying the primary perpetrators of illegal trade, and the supply and demand countries, the methods employed in trafficking and trade routes, and related information can be carried out in the SC meeting in order to formulate strategies and actions to address the problems.

Once actions have been agreed upon, wording must be formulated to either produce a new Resolution or Decision, or revise an existing one, to provide ‘recommendations’ (i.e. instructions) to Parties, the Secretariat and the Standing Committee respectively for action.

This process of examination and discussion cannot be carried out in the plenary meeting because there simply is not enough time (see Sellar’s recent commentary on it). The usual procedure is for a SC member or observer Party to request from the Chair that a working group (WG) be created. If other Parties support the request, the Chair invites expressions of interest from Parties and observers, including NGOs. The WG usually numbers 20 or fewer Parties, international organizations and NGOs. They then schedule meetings to take place in rooms adjoining the main conference hall, and report their findings back to the plenary.

The proposed new or revised Resolution or Decision is submitted as a working document at the next Conference of the Parties as an agenda item to be discussed, possibly revised further, and then either accepted or rejected by the full CITES membership. The WG, possibly with additional members now, is essential in this process.

All of the major species groups, and some not so major, at some time or other have had a WG formed to discuss important trade issues (e.g. elephants, rhinos, Asian big cats, cheetahs, pangolins, sharks and rays, snakes, various plant and timber species, even sturgeons and paddlefish).

Great apes, oddly, have never had a WG, even for discussion of the formulation of CITES Resolution Conf. 13.4 Conservation of and Trade in Great Apes, produced by the CITES Secretariat in 2004. The Secretariat also prepared on its own the only revision to RC 13.4, made at the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) in March, 2013.

At the 65th SC meeting in July, 2014, a SC member did request formation of a great apes working group (GAWG), supported by another Party and several NGOs. The discussion was abruptly cut off by John Scanlon, the CITES Secretary-General, when he initiated a closed-microphone consultation with the SC Chair. See this Mongabay article for a description. In the report on great apes submitted to the 65th SC, the Secretariat stated in part, “data from official sources suggest that the illegal international trade in great ape specimens is currently limited” and “there is very little illegal international trade in great ape specimens”.

The key words in this statement are “data from official sources,” which apparently consist of its own Trade Database and reports compiled by INTERPOL and the World Customs Union. “Official sources” seemingly do not include its sister organization within the UN Environment Programme, the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), which is charged with great ape conservation. At the last CITES Conference of the Parties, held in Bangkok in March 2013, GRASP released a report entitled Stolen Apes. This report found that between 2005 and 2011, approximately 22,200 great apes were lost in trafficking related incidents. The report estimates that every year approximately 5% of the total great ape population on Earth is lost due to trafficking and related killing. Is that really “limited” and “very little”?

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The situation has not improved since then. In June 2014 GRASP released a press statement asserting that “The illegal trade in live chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans showed no signs of diminishing – and may actually be getting worse.” In an October 2015 webcast the GRASP coordinator said that seizure rates of illegally traded great apes were higher than previously.

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Great ape illegal trade seizure rates have increased since the Stolen Apes report was written, according to GRASP

The findings on trafficking from unofficial sources such as media reports and NGO investigations are not included in the Secretariat’s reports, nor up to the present is GRASP’s information included, although there are plans for GRASP to begin reporting officially, probably in cooperation with the Section on Great Apes (SGA) of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group. The intended contents and format of the reports are currently being developed.

Recognizing that there was a glaring need for a more complete set of information on great ape trafficking to be presented to CITES Parties, PEGAS devised a plan to achieve this at the 66th SC meeting. The plan was composed of three parts: (1) persuade one or more Parties to submit a Working Document containing a call to revise RC 13.4 to deal with increasing levels of great ape trafficking, (2) induce a Party or Parties to submit an Information Document that contained highlights of the excluded media and NGO investigation findings and (3) call for the creation of a GAWG to examine the new (to CITES) information and discuss the RC 13.4 revision.

PEGAS met with the Kenya Wildlife Service – Kenya’s CITES Management Authority – in 2014 after the 65th SC meeting to present the plan and seek their support, which was obtained. PEGAS and Ol Pejeta Conservancy CEO Richard Vigne met with GRASP staff on 28 August 2015 to discuss a number of issues of mutual concern regarding great ape illegal trade. At that meeting PEGAS brought up the need for a GAWG in order to create a forum within CITES for examining the full range of information available that reported on great ape trafficking. GRASP did not think that a GAWG would achieve anything, because the Secretariat’s position was firm, but GRASP did not say anything opposing the creation of a working group.

PEGAS in 2015 then drafted a Working Document and Information Document and shared it with Doug Cress of GRASP, Ian Redmond of the Ape Alliance and Mark Jones of the Born Free Foundation for their comments. After making the advised revisions by the reviewers the documents were submitted to KWS for their review.

The plan was also presented and discussed at an Information Exchange Meeting held at the GRASP offices in the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri, Kenya, on 9th November 2015. The organizations attending were PEGAS, GRASP, KWS, Ape Alliance, Born Free Foundation, PASA, UNODC, EAGLE, Jane Goodall Institute, Humane Society of the United States and WildlifeImpact. The Wildlife Conservation Society was also supposed to attend, but the person came down with the flu and gave his apologies.

Not everyone expressed their full support for the plan, but none of the participants openly opposed it. The main doubts were that the objectives of a revision of RC 13.4 could be achieved by other means, and if the GAWG was again rejected it would constitute a major setback for the eventual creation of one. A main concern of PEGAS, however, was not just the revision of RC 13.4, but also the presentation of the ‘non-official’ information on the scale of great ape trafficking, and the details of it, to CITES Parties. Without a GAWG, there was no way to accomplish this officially and get it into the CITES record. The Secretariat could continue to assert its claims that “there is very little illegal international trade in great ape specimens”.

KWS, with the assistance of the Ape Alliance, obtained the co-sponsorship of the Uganda CITES Management Authority to submit the Working Document, which was done as SC66 Doc. 48.2. Uganda is a great ape range State and a member of the Standing Committee, so this was an important accomplishment. PEGAS would like to thank sincerely Patrick Omondi and Solomon Kyalo of KWS and James Lutalo of the Uganda CITES M.A. for their assistance and cooperation.

In the end no sponsor of the Information Document could be found, even though revisions were made to water it down. There was simply too much evidence of malfeasance on the part of certain named Party countries by non-official sources for another Party to attach their name to it. The Information Document, in CITES format, can be viewed here. Information Documents are limited to 12 pages of text, so not everything could be put in. There is quite a bit of history given of great ape activities within CITES because it is important to establish continuity of the past with what is occurring today. CITES has not solved the great ape trafficking problem, in spite of trying to create the impression that it has.

4Ian chimpanzee box 2 copy

CITES has not solved the great ape trafficking problem, in spite of trying to create the impression that it has.

PEGAS investigations of online wildlife trafficking, particularly in the Middle East, and a recent visit to Thailand, Vietnam and China, have shown that great ape trafficking and misuse in commercial activities are more common than even PEGAS believed a year ago.

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Online trafficking in the Middle East is out of control

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East Asian zoos and safari parks import dozens of young great apes annually for performances and use in fee photography with visitors

The plan to get a GAWG created at SC66 was undone by two main factors – agenda scheduling and lack of support for SC66 Doc. 48.2 from the Secretariat, GRASP and certain NGOs. GRASP claimed that certain great ape range States and NGOs did not support 48.2 because they had not been involved in the process. The Ape Alliance had, however, written to all SC members prior to the start of the meeting to inform them of the contents and reason behind 48.2 and requesting their support for it.

The Species Survival Network, which coordinates the activities of dozens of “conservation, environmental and animal protection organizations around the world to secure CITES protection for plants and animals affected by international trade”, recommended that SC66 agree to establish the proposed Working Group. Nevertheless, GRASP requested Kenya and Uganda to withdraw the document, which with considerable consternation they felt they had to do if GRASP did not support it.

The scheduling was also a major factor. The Great Apes item on the agenda was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon (which wasn’t known when the document was drafted), the penultimate day of the meeting. Even if a GAWG had been formed, it would not have had the time to meet, adequately discuss revision of RC 13.4, and report back to the plenary. As it turned out, because of delays, Agenda item 48, Great Apes, did not come up until mid morning on Friday, the last day.

The solution could have been for Uganda and Kenya to request that the GAWG be formed, which would only have taken about 10 minutes, with the instruction from the Chair to meet electronically after the meeting, as other working groups do. A draft revision of RC 13.4 could have been discussed and agreed upon in a Google Group or similar forum, and submitted as a draft resolution revision Working Document to CoP17 before the 27 April deadline. Presumably GAWG members who were Parties would co-sponsor the submission. The Information Document could also have been circulated to the GAWG members for their review. If this course had been taken, the GAWG could have met early on during CoP17 to finalize the presentation to plenary under the Great Apes agenda item.

So what happens now?

An informal group of NGOs is working on a draft RC 13.4 revision by email, which eventually will be reviewed by GRASP and selected Parties, and Party sponsors will be solicited to submit it before the 27 April deadline. If the Great Apes agenda item is scheduled on a Thursday again, the same thing that happened at SC66 could occur again. No time for a GAWG to be formed, to meet to review the revision, and report back to plenary. The Chair would no doubt put consideration of it off until a subsequent Standing Committee meeting.

In the meantime great ape trafficking continues, and CITES is still doing little about it, with lack of support from organizations that should be helping.

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Eight young orangutans used in a band at Safari World, just outside of Bangkok. This is illegal according to Thai law.

Great Ape Illegal Trade Information Exchange Meeting

On 9th November, 2015, PEGAS organized a meeting with several key people involved in great ape conservation and welfare. The purpose was to exchange information with a view to enhancing synergy and cooperation in all of our respective activities. The meeting elicited unexpected – for PEGAS – differences of opinion on the best way forward. More on this will be presented in future posts.

Please see below a summary of the discussions, which was sent for review to all of the participants.

REPORT OF MEETING

Great Ape Illegal Trade Information Exchange Meeting 

9 November, 2015 

Introduction and purpose of the meeting 

GRASP and PEGAS welcomed the participants to the meeting.

The names of individuals who expressed various points of view or who shared items of information will in most cases not be given, and only a very general summary will be presented here.

PEGAS organized the meeting with considerable assistance from GRASP, for which we are most grateful. It was held at the United Nations Office in Nairobi on 9th November 2015 from approximately 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The meeting participants (list in the annex) introduced themselves and briefly summarized their interest in great apes.

The purpose of the meeting was to exchange information related to illegal great ape trade: how and why it persisted – supply and demand drivers; what the scale of it was and the trends; what measures could be taken at the national and international levels to halt it; the issues of corruption and law enforcement; where and how many great apes were in captivity and in need of relocation to a sanctuary; the question of sanctuary space and capacity to care for new arrivals; policy related to relocating captive great apes; databases to capture, analyze, store and report information on illegal trade and sanctuaries; CITES enforcement issues; and future plans.

Great Apes in need of rescue and relocation

It was proposed that a database containing the following information be established: the location and number of great apes in need of sanctuaries by species, the capacity and willingness of sanctuaries to accept or not new arrivals by country and species, and the policy that would apply to relocating great apes from one country or region to another.

The final outcome was that no database of this kind will be produced, there was insufficient support from participants.

GRASP has a list of captive great apes in need, but it is not freely available. Many of the participants spoke of large numbers of great apes known to be in deplorable conditions. PASA has protocols and guidelines of how to deal with such cases, but these do not seem to operate in practice. Each case has its own individual characteristics, and efforts to relocate apes can be very time-consuming and expensive to achieve. The case of the Taiping Four gorillas was presented as an example, which took several years and considerable effort and expense to complete. CITES stated in 2007 that it should stand as an example and act to prevent a repeat occurrence – which has not been the case. [The Guinea to China C-scam began in 2007, the same year.]

The consensus opinion of the group seemed to be that relocation should be attempted only in extreme cases. In most instances, because of multiple factors – expense, difficulty, opportunity costs (more important things could be done with the time and money), sanctuary limitations – the apes would regrettably have to remain where they were. The PASA policy, however, was that if great apes were seized or otherwise acquired in a country and presented to a sanctuary in that country, the sanctuary was required to take the ape(s) in; lack of space and funds was not an excuse to reject acceptance.

Repatriation of internationally seized apes would preferably only be done soon after seizure. Those apes trafficked years ago and held in captivity abroad for long periods are not high priority for limited sanctuary space in Africa, except at a non-range country sanctuary such as Sweetwaters. Chimfunshi was suggested as being included, but some felt that this sanctuary was not up to standard. If a relocation was proposed from outside Africa to a PASA sanctuary, it would have to come with sufficient funding attached to cover the expense of caring for the ape over the course of its expected life span.

More sanctuaries are needed in range State countries that do not have them (e.g. Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and CAR), and existing sanctuaries need to expand, but there was no master plan of how to achieve it. Each country and sanctuary seems to operate independently.

Status and trends of illegal great ape trade

GRASP is keeping records of seizures with various partners reporting to it. The average rate over the past 18 months (?) was 2.11 apes a week seized, which is a higher rate than the period before the Stolen Apes report (2005-2011). Anecdotal reports from the media and informed individuals suggest that trade, particularly of orangutans, is at a high level. A high level for apes, however, was still very low compared to many other species. This, and the fact that CITES only accepts formal seizure data from governments, the WCO, INTERPOL and other official sources, was suggested as one reason why the CITES Secretariat does not accord priority to great ape trafficking.

Considerable discussion ensued about the motivation behind lack of action by CITES in regard to great apes and its reluctance to allow creation of a WG within CITES. The following were offered as explanations: (1) CITES has 35,000 species to deal with, only those with high levels of illegal trade and economic value are accorded concerted attention. Great ape trade does not cross the threshold; (2) related to (1), since CITES only accepts official trade records, it misses much of the informal reporting on trafficking and defends its actions based on the official data; (3) CITES does not want to tackle great ape trafficking because it does not want to enter into conflict with influential import countries such as China, Russia and the wealthy Gulf states, and (4) most of the informal sector reports presenting data on the trafficking have been presented in such an aggressive manner that the Secretariat is biased against according the data a platform in a WG.

It was pointed out that the main demand motivations for great ape trade persisted: (1) pets, (2) entertainment, (3) private menageries for the wealthy, (4) commercial zoos and safari parks.

Pegas announced that Vietnam, China and the Middle East (Egypt and the UAE) were developing new safari parks, the former USSR countries and eastern Europe were emerging as markets for great apes in the pet and private menagerie area, the Middle East had many online great ape traffickers, TRAFFIC had found many great apes in commercial and private ownership in SE Asia, and even India was now implicated in illegal trade [one of the Dubai online traffickers operates in India and is Indian]. The Indonesian land-clearance fires were creating increased opportunities for orangutan trafficking.

Views were divided on whether the best approach to address illegal great ape trade was at the national level or internationally through CITES. CITES was recognized as being ineffective and there were loopholes in using CITES permits and government-to-government ‘Ambassador’ gifts. Some felt it was generally impossible to improve CITES enough, so the national level law enforcement and community education approach was the preferred course of action, while others thought that CITES could be reformed enough to be effective.

Corruption was recognized as the biggest hurdle to achieving effective national action. In Africa, EAGLE had made corruption the keystone of its law enforcement strategy. They had found that approaching high-level government officials to back their work had led to successes down the line through the courts and police. But it was a constant battle with the accused attempting to bribe their way out at every level. Prosecutions could not always be successfully completed, or even if they had been, keeping convicts in prison needed constant monitoring and action, as there were cases where they were let out in irregular fashion. In high-level cases, influential people could intervene to sway the police or the courts to drop cases. The Doumbouya case in Guinea was offered as a ‘success’ example. Will it succeed in the long run against efforts to divert justice? Will it serve to deter others? Time will tell, but it is an excellent example to break the common impression that impunity prevails with ‘connected’ individuals.

Some felt that creating awareness and education at the local level worked effectively to reduce bushmeat hunting, the consequent creation of ape orphans, and the resultant trafficking. JGI offered parts of eastern DRC and Congo-Brazzaville as examples of places where billboards, a TV programme and community meetings had reduced cases of ape orphans significantly.

A participant pointed out that as long as the demand remained, and end-users were willing to pay USD 20,000 for a chimpanzee and USD 150,000 or more for a gorilla, traffickers would operate a market for great apes that no amount of supply country law enforcement or community work alone could effectively deal with. The demand had to be cut off, which posed an equally huge challenge. There were signs in China that the young generation was producing people that could change attitudes towards wildlife exploitation from within, and this should be encouraged. Partnerships could be established to work with Chinese NGOs and the media to campaign against illegal great ape trafficking. EIA and WildAid had been approached about undertaking great ape work, but neither had shown much interest.

Some expressed the view that better data were needed on the trade. An inventory of great apes in captivity in various countries and their uses would be extremely useful. A baseline of numbers was needed from which to monitor future activity. Age and sex was needed and ideally some form of identification – DNA profiles, microchips, facial recognition from photos, fingerprints, were all suggested.

DNA data could indicate not only source area, but also the presence of international trade in Africa, which was of relevance to CITES. The numbers of illegally traded apes could be increased substantially by DNA data indicating the movement of great apes from one country to another, which CITES could not ignore. Some asked, who would pay for it? Others pointed out the difficulty of obtaining permission to take DNA samples.

GRASP great ape illegal trade database

GRASP briefed the meeting on the status of the database they intend to launch. It was consulting with various partners on how the database should be structured, what variables would be included and so on. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre will host the database. It should enter into operation in 2016. GRASP stated that it would consist mainly of seizure data, similar to ETIS. A participant advised that it should be compatible with other relevant databases as much as possible. Some participants would like to know the format and how best to report instances of illegal trade they knew of to GRASP. GRASP stressed that illegal trade reports it received would be closely vetted to establish accuracy and to eliminate multiple source reports of the same case, which it had already experienced in Indonesia, for example. There was some uncertainty about how non-seizure trafficking reports would be dealt with, for example the online great apes seen for sale or great apes turning up in safari parks from unknown sources with no CITES paper trail. These issues would be resolved over the course of the next few months.

GRASP would in future be reporting to CITES on great apes jointly with the IUCN Section on Great Apes, which should provide a higher profile for great ape trafficking. It was signaled that the CITES-MIKE illegal killing of elephants programme had been expanded in the new MIKES programme to include great apes in some monitoring sites. GRASP could perhaps liaise with them to see if any relevant data might emerge.

Plans to ensure that a Great Ape Working Group be created at CITES SC66

PEGAS has prepared a Working Document and an Information Document to appear on the Agenda item ‘Great Apes’ at the 66th CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva in January 2016. Doug Cress of GRASP, Mark Jones of Born Free, Ian Redmond of Ape Alliance and Solomon Kyalo of KWS have made valuable comments that are producing revised versions. The first recalls the history of great ape trafficking in CITES and demonstrates that it is still occurring. CITES measures to date to address it had been inadequate and the CITES Resolution Conf. 13.4 (Rev) that deals with illegal great ape trade needed review and strengthening. The Info Doc provided the detailed history in CITES of great ape trade and reports selected incidents that had occurred since CITES last took action and were still occurring. Both documents called for the creation of a working group to discuss the issue. The documents had also been sent to two NGO members who were part of the CITES delegations of Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville (a Standing Committee member) respectively, asking if they might be able to co-sponsor the submission, but no response had been received.

KWS, which is the Kenya CITES Management and Scientific Authorities, spoke to explain how they supported the submission of the documents and that they were seeking the co-sponsorship of Uganda, since Uganda is a member of the Standing Committee and is a great ape range State. KWS hoped that after the issue was discussed in a WG at SC66 that a range State consultative meeting could be held well before the 17th Conference of the Parties in late September 2016. The range State meeting would formulate a joint position with recommendations of what revisions should be made to RC 13.4 and any other actions that could be taken to control the trade.

Suggestions for strengthening CITES Resolution Conf. 13.4 (Rev.) Great Apes

This topic was included with the previous agenda item in a joint discussion session. Meeting participants pointed out that many of the areas that needed addressing to strengthen measures to control great ape trafficking were included in other CITES working groups. These included fraudulent permitting, lack of timely monitoring of improper permits, lack of timely reporting of illegal trade, failure of the Secretariat and Parties to enforce Articles of the Convention and national law, and so on. It was suggested that the new electronic permitting system that CITES intended to establish might deal with many of these problems.

Various participants advised that suggestions for RC 13.4 revision should be specific to great apes and not overlap with topics that CITES was dealing with in other WGs. One participant stressed that the WG would be important to act as a forum for bringing non-official reporting of great ape trafficking into CITES documents and therefore permit Parties for the first time to examine their significance. Up to the present, most of the NGO investigations that have revealed the extent of illegal great ape trade have not been discussed in CITES meetings. Even the UNEP Stolen Apes report findings have not been admitted into official CITES documents. This lack of examination of unofficial data allows the Secretariat to continue to maintain that great ape trade is insignificant.

Some expressed the opinion that if the attempt to create a WG failed that political capital would have been wasted. The same objectives might be able to be achieved in the other WGs. However, none of the other WGs seemed to present a forum for presentation of the unofficial trade data that was in the Information Document and information that would be created as the result of investigations in future. It was anomalous that every major species group, and some not so major, had a WG, except for great apes. Was this simply a result of the Secretariat wishing to prioritize species by trade scale, a cost-benefit approach motivated by limited staff and time, or was there something else?

In spite of the risks of failure with this strategy, many if not most of the participants (no vote was taken) thought it was worth a try. If no WG was established, another attempt could be made at SC67 or CoP17.

Possibilities for continued information exchange to enhance cooperation

The Ape Alliance, a network of dozens of NGOs and individuals concerned with great ape welfare and conservation, announced that it had recently created a Great Ape Illegal Trade Working Group (http://www.4apes.com/working-groups/ape-trade). The WG had not yet formulated a Terms of Reference or work plan, but it could very well act as a forum for continued information exchange. PEGAS will consult with Ape Alliance and Born Free/Species Survival Network to formulate a ToR in the coming weeks and communicate the results to everyone.

GRASP also offers a forum for information exchange and is already a useful source of information dissemination through its Newsletter bulletins (email newsletter@un-grasp.org to sign up), Twitter (https://www.twitter.com/graspunep) and Facebook page (https://web.facebook.com/graspunep).

Recommendations for follow-up action

  1. Establish the ToR of the Ape Alliance Working Group on Illegal Great Ape Trade.
  2. Disseminate to participants.
  3. Engage other NGOs and interested parties in concerted action concerning illegal trade.

Participants were requested to send in any other recommendations they might think of (pegas@olpejetaconservancy.org).

PARTICIPANTS’ LIST

Great Ape Trade Information Exchange Meeting

9 November 2015

Daniel Stiles           PEGAS, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, pegas@olpejetaconservancy.org

Doug Cress             UN-GRASP, Douglas.cress@unep.org

Laura Darby           UN-GRASP, Laura.Darby@unep.org

Johannes Refisch UN-GRASP, johannes.refisch@unep.org

Theodore Leggett UNODC, Theodore.LEGGETT@unodc.org

Javier Montaño       UNODC, javier.montano@unodc.org

Mark Jones             Born Free Foundation, markj@bornfree.org.uk

Ofir Drori                 EAGLE, lastgreatape@yahoo.com

Gregg Tully             Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), gregg@pasaprimates.org

Franck Chantereau PASA, jack@lub.gbs.cd

Susan Lutter         PASA, sllutter@gmail.com

Becky Rose           PASA, rebeccar0214@gmail.com

Debby Cox            Jane Goodall Institute, dcox@janegoodall.org

Jim & Jenny Desmond Humane Society of the United States, jjdesmond@hotmail.com

Solomon Kyalo      Kenya Wildlife Service, cites@kws.go.ke

Ian Redmond        Ape Alliance (via Skype), ele@globalnet.co.uk

Julie Sherman      WildlifeImpact, julie@wildlifeimpact.org

Wildlife traffickers exposed to the authorities

We will call him FS. In November 2014, FS flew to Accra, Ghana, to meet with local wildlife dealers to set up a deal for three infant chimpanzees, no doubt captured in the forest after their mothers had been killed. It took some time to arrange their shipping to Dubai, where FS is based, as they arrived in March 2015. He soon found buyers, since baby chimpanzees are favoured pets in the Middle East. Buyers pay USD 20,000 and more for baby chimpanzees in the UAE. They arrive without CITES documents.

The places and dates were reconstructed by the Project to End Great Ape Slavery, which Ol Pejeta Conservancy sponsors. PEGAS and has been following this wildlife trafficker for almost a year by monitoring his Instagram and Facebook accounts, where he posts photographs of his travels – and the animals he trades.

An Instagram photo showing that FS was in Accra in November 2014. There were others as well.

An Instagram photo showing that FS was in Accra in November 2014. There were others as well.

 

The three chimpanzees FS came to Ghana to buy.

The three chimpanzees FS came to Ghana to buy.

The chimpanzees arrive in Dubai in March 2015, frightened and traumatized from the long journey.

The chimpanzees are held with the African trafficker in the ‘blue room’ before departure in March 2015, frightened and traumatized.

 

FS put the chimpanzees up for sale and no more posts of them appeared on his Instagram page.

After arrival in Dubai, FS put the chimpanzees up for sale and no more posts of them appeared on his Instagram page.

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Dozens of wild animals have appeared on FS’s Instagram and Facebook pages since March 2015, most recently a baby orangutan. PEGAS has traced FS’s travels to India, Thailand, Russia, Ghana, Kenya and possibly China. His Instagram account has now gone private.

FS is just one of many such wildlife traffickers that PEGAS has found, working in close collaboration with a Cheetah Conservation Fund investigator. Cheetahs and other big cats are even more popular than great apes in the Gulf.

Just knowing who the dealers are at the end of the trade chain is only part of the story, however. If the networks are to be shut down, the suppliers and transport routes and methods also need to be known.

PEGAS went to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in late 2014 to track down addresses that had been put on CITES export permits, to see if any could be verified as illegal great ape exporters.

Working with a local assistant provided by the environmental law NGO Juristrale, PEGAS set about finding the addresses. In the course of driving around the bustling and chaotic Kinshasa city, the team passed a stretch of roadside where primates, birds and other animals were displayed for sale. PEGAS ordered the taxi to pull over and soon two men approached to ask what they wanted. PEGAS recounts what transpired:

“I instructed Fiston, my assistant, to ask them if they knew where I could buy a chimpanzee. I told him to tell them that I was from Dubai on a buying trip. On such short notice it was the best cover story I could come up with. It seemed to work, as they said that, yes, they could get me one. We agreed to return the next day and took their names and mobile phone numbers.

“Further down the road we encountered three more wildlife dealers and repeated the routine. After several visits with the two sets of traffickers, some carried out by Fiston alone, we learned quite a bit about how they operate. I used undercover video recording during some of the questioning sessions.”

The roadside where the animals are displayed is located next to a military base. The traffickers are all middlemen who sell the displayed animals on behalf of officers in the military base. More important, they take orders for protected species that cannot be displayed openly and make arrangements for the animals to be procured. In the case of great apes, they may have to be captured in the wild, but on occasion chimpanzee infants turn up with itinerant traders visiting Kinshasa from the interior.

The red circles show monkeys and the blue ovals are around soldiers that protect the middlemen.

The red circles show monkeys and the blue ovals are around soldiers that protect the middlemen.

The middlemen were protected by soldiers from the base who patrolled in the vicinity of the traffickers. “In fact, soldiers came to look at us while we were speaking with the middlemen,” said PEGAS. “Making sure we weren’t trouble-makers.”

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The middlemen are constantly on their mobile phones taking orders and putting out commands to their suppliers to bring in various species that they have received orders for. Note the soldier coming to see that everything is fine.

Chimpanzees and bonobos were usually shipped down the Congo River on boats from Mbandaka, and western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees were captured in the coastal Mayumbe Forest and driven to Kinshasa from Boma. A bonobo was even found in Boma and rescued by Ian Redmond in 2013. PEGAS saw her in Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary.

The red lines show the main trade routes from the Mayumbe Forest in the west and Mbandaka down-river in the north east.

The red lines show the main trade routes from the Mayumbe Forest in the west and Mbandaka down-river in the north east.

Prices for chimpanzees in Kinshasa ranged from USD 500 to 800, for bonobos USD1,000 to $2,500, and gorillas USD 2,500. Obtaining CITES export permits would be an additional USD 3,000-5,000, depending on species.

Great apes are shipped by air in crude boxes like this one. It is not uncommon for fatalities to occur during transport.

Great apes are shipped by air in crude boxes like this one. It is not uncommon for fatalities to occur during transport.

PEGAS found no chimpanzee during the brief visit to Kinshasa, as it takes two to three weeks to acquire one on order, but Fiston was notified of one that had arrived soon after PEGAS left the DRC. Before arrangements could be made to have it seized by the authorities, it was sold and disappeared. Perhaps it ended up in Dubai.

Fiston sent PEGAS a photo of the chimpanzee that was offered for sale in Kinshasa soon after PEGAS left the country.

Fiston sent PEGAS a photo of the chimpanzee that was offered for sale in Kinshasa soon after PEGAS left the country.

 

Perhaps the Kinshasa chimpanzee is a pet of a wealthy Emirati today.

Perhaps the Kinshasa chimpanzee is a pet of a wealthy Emirati today.

 

PEGAS has prepared a report naming some of the Gulf area online traffickers, including FS, and providing their contacts. The report has been sent to national authorities, the CITES Secretariat and to INTERPOL. Now to see what happens.

Chimpanzee mothers are very protective of their infants. The mothers always have to be killed or incapacitated to capture the infants for trade.

Chimpanzee mothers are very protective of their infants. The mothers always have to be killed or incapacitated to capture the infants for trade.

Chilling Photos Show What Happens To Baby Apes Stolen From Their Families

This article from The Dodo is based on PEGAS work…

By Sarah V Schweig 15 December 2015

Sometimes an exposé reveals a seedy secret world of animal exploitation and makes a huge splash.

And sometimes a dark world of horrific exploitation is hidden in plain sight.

luxurypetss2

 

A quick look online reveals a terrifying truth about the lives of orphaned great apes, who are being illegally bought by wealthy people in the Middle East who want to dress them up and keep them as pets.

“Almost all of these animals have been captured as infants from the wild, and been bought online,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy wrote in a press release provided to The Dodo.

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Ol Pejeta has started the Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS) with support from the Arcus Foundation, which seeks to develop a better understanding of the illegal trade in great apes by investigating websites that advertise apes for sale or display photos and videos of great apes as pets.

PEGAS collected the photographs in this article from online sites open to the public.

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All great ape species are listed under Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), an international agreement that is supposed to ensure that international trade of animals and plants does not threaten their survival. This means that any commercial trade of these animals is illegal.

Firoz Sama 25.3.15b
Illegal — and also horrifically wrong. According to Ol Pejeta:

The demand for great apes as pets, entertainment props, or for display in private zoos in the Middle East is fueling the large scale wild capture of infants in the forests of West Africa and Indonesia. In order to capture young chimpanzees, hunters kill the mothers and often the rest of the troop as well. Many of these infants die en route to their selling destination, as a result of rough handling, cramped transport conditions, stress and dehydration.

One such case was a baby chimp known as Little Doody.

Little Doody was discovered in the Cairo airport being smuggled into a plane bound for Kuwait.

 

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Even though PEGAS offered to relocate him to a sanctuary, the Egyptian CITES office did not respond to the offer.

Little Doody was brought to the Giza Zoo. He now lives in a cage.

11223593_10155950662645611_1069515266357032241_n copy

 

 

 

 

PEGAS rescues two chimpanzee orphans in Liberia – Part II

In late April PEGAS assisted Phoebe McKinney, founder of the NGO ISPARE, to rescue two young chimpanzees in Liberia from truly appalling conditions of illegal captivity (see Part I).

Jackson, renamed Guey, was living on an abandoned VW bus before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

Jackson, renamed Guey, was living on an abandoned VW bus before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacksy, renamed Sweatpea, receives a back-scratch from the PEGAS manager in her bleak, filthy cage before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

Jacksy, renamed Sweatpea, receives a back-scratch from the PEGAS manager in her bleak, filthy cage before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

They were both rescued and relocated to a temporary enclosure at the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, located in a patch of coastal forest about 40 km from Monrovia.

Guey and Sweetpea meeting for the first time in their new enclosure at Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, free to run and play with another chimpanzee for the first time in their lives. Mbama, their caretaker, looks on. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey and Sweetpea meeting for the first time in their new enclosure at Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, free to run and play with another chimpanzee for the first time in their lives. Mbama, their caretaker, looks on. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Libassa sanctuary is not equipped to look after chimpanzees over the long term. As they grow into adulthood chimpanzee infants, who are friendly and unaggressive, become increasingly forceful and surprisingly strong. Rudolphe Antoune, owner of the Libassa Ecolodge and land on which the sanctuary is located, had witnessed a captive adult chimpanzee violently break out of a barred cage and knew that the wire mesh enclosure would not be adequate for very long. Even if a strong enough enclosure could be constructed to hold grown chimpanzees, the support was not there for long-term care, which needed a full-time manager, veterinarian and trained caretaking staff.

The only hope was to bring the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya. No other sanctuary in Africa had the capacity to accept them. The United Nations Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) was aware that there were many chimpanzees in Liberia in need, but they had been unable to find a solution.

Before leaving Liberia the PEGAS manager met with the Liberian head of the national CITES office and obtained his agreement that they would issue a CITES export permit for the chimpanzees, on the condition that Kenya would issue the corresponding import permit. Veterinary health clearances would also be necessary.

PEGAS also visited the Kenya Airways office in downtown Monrovia and spoke with the Cargo Officer about the requirements for transporting chimpanzees from Monrovia to Nairobi. Because of the Ebola crisis, Kenya Airways had suspended its scheduled Monrovia-Nairobi flight via Accra. We would have to wait for them to resume service, or use other airlines, which required changing planes and airlines in a third country, another complication.

As the complexity and difficulty of the task ahead became more apparent, PEGAS decided to visit the ‘Monkey Island’ chimpanzee colony, located near the Robertsfield international airport, just down the coast from Libassa. The misnamed Monkey Island contained over 60 chimpanzees abandoned by the New York Blood Center, and PEGAS was aware that plans were afoot to seek long-term care for them. Might those plans be able to embrace chimpanzees languishing in squalid, lonely circumstances around Monrovia? And might Guey and Sweetpea be the first to go?

Map showing the location of Monrovia and the chimpanzee islands in the red oval.

Map showing the location of Monrovia and the chimpanzee islands in the red oval.

The so-called Monkey Island actually consists of six islands in the Farmington and Little Bassa rivers, very near to the Atlantic Ocean. At the time of PEGAS’s visit there were 66 chimpanzees on the islands, but because of the lack of funds contraception had not been practiced for a few years and there were now more than ten infants under the age of 5 years to contend with, and more would surely be on the way if nothing was done. There was no wild food to speak of on the islands and caretakers had to bring food by boat, so allowing breeding was not a good idea.

Location of the LIBR chimpanzee islands. (Photo courtesy of D. Cox, Jane Goodall Institute)

Location of the LIBR chimpanzee islands. (Photo courtesy of D. Cox, Jane Goodall Institute)

The history of how the chimpanzees came to be on the islands is long and tragic. To summarize briefly, in 1974 the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute of the New York Blood Center established a Laboratory of Virology (VILAB II) in Liberia for research with chimpanzees. They took over a defunct Liberia Institute for Tropical Medicine, which the Liberian government renamed the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR). The New York Blood Center (NYBC) staffed and managed the LIBR in cooperation with the government from 1975 to 2002. Chimpanzees were caught in the wild and brought to VILAB II for biomedical research.

During the years of Liberian civil wars (1989-1996, 1999-2003), NYBC staff remained at the site and continued research activities and care for the chimpanzees, at considerable cost to themselves. This prevented the chimps from being slaughtered[1]. Research at the LIBR facilities in Liberia by NYBC led to a Hepatitis B vaccine and also contributed to the validation of a sterilization method that eliminated transmission of Hepatitis B and C and HIV viruses through blood products, so the chimpanzees deserve considerable gratitude for their sacrifices to science.

Since 1986, the research carried on in Liberia by the NYBC at LIBR using chimpanzees is reported to have contributed to the receipt by the NYBC of more than USD 500 million in royalties. Even with a stipulated provision in the agreement with LIBR that “LIBR will receive 5% of such royalty income as shall accrue to NYBC resulting in part or in whole from NYBC operation in Liberia”, LIBR was never informed about or received its share of the more than USD 500 million – about USD 25 million! The NYBC also signed agreements with the LIBR in 1999 and 2002, but after that time did not continue to use chimpanzees in research. The chimpanzees were gradually moved from the LIBR facility in Charlesville, about 7 km from the Robertsfield airport, onto the islands.

The NYBC had provided for the care of these animals in “retirement” on the islands, where they are safe from human predators, and local people are also safe from the animals, which having lost their fear of people can be dangerous. Because there is little wild food on the islands, the chimpanzees have to be fed by caretakers whom they have come to know and trust and provided with other care at a cost of about USD 30,000 per month. The NYBC on 5th January 2015 unilaterally announced that it would cease all support for the chimpanzees. Without concluding any formal discussion of the transition, NYBC ceased support for the care of the chimps on 6th March 2015. Since then, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Arcus Foundation have been providing funds to continue feeding the chimpanzees.

Joseph Thomas, with John Zeonyuway in the pick-up with food, two of the main staff in late April looking after the chimpanzees. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Joseph Thomas, with John Zeonyuway in the pick-up organizing food, two of the main staff in late April looking after the chimpanzees. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When PEGAS visited in late April 2015 the caretakers were taking food and milk to the chimpanzees, but because of a lack of funds the chimpanzees were being fed only every second day, which was barely keeping them alive. I joined a boat that had been arranged to take three visiting scientists from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the USA, who kindly allowed me to tag along.

John Zeonyuway on the left, setting off from the dock with three CDC scientists to visit the chimpanzee islands. (Photo: D. Stiles)

John Zeonyuway on the left, setting off from the dock with three CDC scientists to visit the chimpanzee islands. (Photo: D. Stiles)

We travelled down the Farmington River for less than a half an hour until we reached Island 5. The chimps had heard the sound of the outboard motor and were eagerly awaiting their fruit, sugar cane and milk. John bounded out of the boat into shallow water and began distributing fruit from a basin. The chimps shrieked and hooted their happiness, and then dug into the food like famine refugees, which in a way they were.

The chimpanzees dig into the fruit basin with delight. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The chimpanzees dig into the fruit basin with delight. (Photo: D. Stiles)

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Each chimpanzee was also administered a measured amount of milk. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Each chimpanzee was also administered a measured amount of milk. (Photo: D. Stiles)

I was surprised at how self-disciplined the hungry chimpanzees were. There was no fighting, and no chimpanzee tried to grab the basin or jump into the boat. When the feeding had finished, we continued down the river past the village of Marshall on the right bank, and then swung to the left up the Little Bassa River past a long sand bar, on the other side of which I could see waves crashing from the Atlantic Ocean. We passed the opening to the sea and soon we reached Island 1. John and two assistants repeated the feeding procedure.

Chimpanzees waited in the trees for the boat to arrive. The blue barrel marks the site of where fresh water is piped to the island, as the islands have no permanent water source. The river water is salty from mixture with sea water. The water pumps periodically break down, and if they aren’t repaired quickly the chimps could die an agonizing death from dehydration. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Chimpanzees waited in the trees for the boat to arrive. The blue barrel marks the site of where fresh water is piped to the island, as the islands have no permanent water source. The river water is salty from mixture with sea water. The water pumps periodically break down, and if they aren’t repaired quickly the chimps could die an agonizing death from dehydration. (Photo: D. Stiles)

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Island 1a had infants, so milk was particularly important here. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Island 1a had infants, so milk was particularly important here. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

I could see that the islands would make a perfect sanctuary, if the funds could be found. One of the biggest problems with most chimpanzee sanctuaries was escape. Chimps are very intelligent and can usually find their way out of a fenced compound, if they are determined to get out. Sweetwaters in Kenya has periodic escapees, and on my visits to Tchimpounga in the Congo and Lola ya Bonobo in the DRC I learned that escapes were common – the tracking of one was in progress when I visited Lola.

Chimpanzees could not swim naturally, their huge torsos and relatively short legs made them sink like stones if they got into deep water. There would be no escapes from the islands.

Soon after returning to Kenya, Liberia was declared Ebola-free by the WHO. I met with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) veterinary and captive wildlife officials and discussed the possibility of bringing the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. I assured them that the chimpanzees were healthy and were being kept in quarantine-like facilities, away from contact with any potential virus carriers. In another meeting I met with the head of the Species Conservation & Management Division and officers in the CITES department – KWS is both CITES Management and Scientific Authorities for Kenya. They were very cooperative and helpful.

I eventually managed to obtain an official letter from KWS approving the importation of the Liberian chimpanzees and informing us that we should proceed with obtaining the necessary permits to allow the import. I sent this letter to the Liberian CITES office and requested them to issue an export permit, assuring them that Kenya would issue a CITES import permit on the basis of the letter.

In late June, Jim and Jenny Desmond arrived in Liberia from Kenya, where they were temporarily staying after completing work in Uganda. Jim is a wildlife veterinarian and Jenny is an experienced primate caregiver, both of them having worked for years in many primate sanctuaries and conducting primate health research around Africa. Jim was now the Veterinary and Technical Advisor and Jenny was Consulting Director on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States. They had come to Liberia to work with the LIBR chimpanzees and look into the possibility of establishing a sanctuary for them. HSUS was vigorously leading a huge coalition campaign to find funding, including compelling the NYBC to resume support for the chimpanzees. To date, the crowdfunding site has raised an astonishing USD 232,500.

Jim and Jenny were very helpful in assisting getting the CITES export permit issued and obtaining an official health clearance letter from the Ministry of Agriculture. Jim prepared a document certifying that he had examined the chimpanzees and they were free of disease. This was all sent to KWS and PEGAS made an official application for a CITES import permit on behalf of Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Jim and Jenny were returning on 28th July to Kenya and offered to accompany the chimpanzees on their journey, so this offered a good target date to finalize all the paperwork.

In the meantime, I found out from the Nairobi office that the Kenya Airways plane flying the Monrovia-Nairobi route, which had now resumed, had quite strict dimension requirements for cargo shipments. We would have to construct transport carriers in Liberia that could meet the required dimensions. I communicated this to Phoebe and the Desmonds and they set about organizing construction of two carriers.

KWS then informed me that we would need an import permit from the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS), under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, before a CITES import permit could be issued. I wrote to the DVS explaining the situation and enquired how to go about obtaining the required permit. No reply.

There is no need to go into the details of all of the efforts made to obtain the DVS import permit, but the final result was that no permit was obtained before 28th July – in spite of KWS support – and no permit has been obtained since. The problem was no doubt the fact that after Liberia was declared Ebola-free, other cases cropped up. Even though it was virtually impossible that Guey and Sweetpea could be carriers of the virus, it was simply impossible politically to allow the importation.

The chimpanzees have been moved to the LIBR facilities in Charlestown, where they are looked after by trained staff. PEGAS reimbursed Phoebe McKinney for six months of care for the chimpanzees (May to end-October) and the construction of the transport carriers. The Desmonds have returned to Liberia to carry on their extraordinary work of improving the lives of captive chimpanzees, and they report that Guey and Sweetpea are like sisters now, enjoying each other’s company every day.

If Phoebe had never reached out to PEGAS that fateful day in March 2015, the two orphan chimpanzees would still today be living a horrible existence alone, one chained to a rusting vehicle and the other staring out of bars from a bleak chamber.

Sweetpea enjoying a little reading in the afternoon sun. (Photo: J. Desmond)

Sweetpea enjoying a little reading in the afternoon sun. (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guey enjoys a banana, free of her chain. (Photo: J. Desmond)

Guey enjoys a banana, free of her chain. (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s playtime for Guey and Sweetpea at LIBR (Photo: J. Desmond)

It’s playtime for Guey and Sweetpea at LIBR (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See the gripping film about ‘Monkey Island’ at http://www.vice.com/video/the-lab-apes-of-liberia.

PEGAS rescues two chimpanzee orphans in Liberia – Part I

Part of the PEGAS mission is to rescue captive great apes held in deplorable conditions and relocate them to a sanctuary. So earlier this year when PEGAS received an email from an expatriate working in Liberia asking if we could help save infant orphan chimpanzees in Monrovia, we arranged to go take a look to assess what the situation was. The expat sent photographs of a hapless 2-year female named Jackson that was tied up to a rusting VW bus wreck. She was being looked after by some policemen, but her situation was quite grim.

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jackson before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Phoebe McKinney, the American woman who contacted PEGAS, was working in Liberia to rebuild the primary education system there that was destroyed by the civil war. And now they had to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which closed the schools for a time. But by the time I arrived, Ebola was on the wane and there had not been a new case in weeks. This gave me the hope that Liberia would soon be declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization, which should allow the chimpanzees to be relocated to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. There is no sanctuary in Liberia. Phoebe had already contacted nearby sanctuaries, Tacugama in Sierra Leone and the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in Guinea, but they had no space. Sweetwaters was the last hope.

Phoebe, an energetic, enthusiastic woman with a soft spot for primates (she has a pet potto, Frankie) had constructed with her own resources a fledgling sanctuary for monkeys next to the Libassa Ecolodge, about 40 km southeast of Monrovia, the capital. Being also an optimist, she had constructed a large wire mesh enclosure to hold young chimpanzees temporarily, with the expectation that they would be transferred to a more permanent home. She said that there were several captive chimpanzees scattered around Monrovia being held in appalling conditions.

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

An aerial photo of the Libassa Ecolodge, located in the lower right. The red circle indicates the location of the sanctuary. (Courtesy Libassa Ecolodge)

An aerial photo of the Libassa Ecolodge, located in the lower right. The red circle indicates the location of the sanctuary. (Courtesy Libassa Ecolodge)

A few days before my arrival, Phoebe rescued Jackson from the VW wreck and transported her to Libassa, where she happily played around inside the enclosure, free for the first time in a year of the metal neck collar. The collar had left a nasty friction wound on the back of her neck.

One of the first things I did while there was to visit Libassa and see Jackson, now renamed ‘Guey’, meaning chimpanzee in Kru, the local language. Guey was full of fun and I entered the enclosure and played with her for a while. She ran around tumbling and jumping and enjoyed herself as I flipped her in somersaults.

The chimpanzee enclosure at Libassa, fitted out with greenery, ropes and structures to climb and swing on. Sure beats being tied up to a rusty VW wreck. (Photos: D. Stiles)

The chimpanzee enclosure at Libassa, fitted out with greenery, ropes and structures to climb and swing on. Sure beats being tied up to a rusty VW wreck. (Photos: D. Stiles)

 

Stiles5

 

Guey enjoying a mango in her new home in Libassa. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey enjoying a mango in her new home in Libassa. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

The PEGAS manager playing with Guey. (Photos: P. Mckinney)

The PEGAS manager playing with Guey. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phoebe and I next went to visit another 2-year old female named Jacksy who was being held behind bars in a squalid chamber that faced onto a littered alley. Jacksy looked stunted and I learned that she was fed mainly with biscuits and left-overs from the food hawkers on the street next to the cage. The Chinese woman who ‘owned’ her ran a beauty salon nearby. We met with Alfa, the caretaker hired by the Chinese woman to look after Jacksy. He seemed agreeable that we come back the next day to pick up Jacksy and take her to Libassa. This seemed too easy.

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

8Jacksy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We returned the next day, hoping to take Jacksy with us to Libassa, but now Alfa said that the Chinese owner had told him that she wanted USD 500 as compensation for costs involved in acquiring Jacksy and for upkeep. I told Phoebe that this was completely unacceptable, PEGAS could not be party to what effectively was ape trafficking. If we paid for Jacksy, the woman would be motivated to go out and get another infant chimpanzee. A long negotiating session ensued. While Phoebe went into the beauty salon to talk with the ‘owner’, I sat down to chat with Alfa to try and find out more about why the woman kept the chimpanzee. It did not seem to be a pet.

Alfa said that the woman had brought Jacksy from the forest herself in her car, he did not know from where. She had returned recently from a trip to China where she had attempted to sell the chimpanzee, but was unsuccessful. I imagine the Ebola outbreak had made selling animals from the affected countries quite difficult. So now she was willing to sell Jacksy at a discount because of Ebola. There were stories of villagers killing chimpanzees after they learned that they were Ebola carriers, another incentive to get rid of it.

Phoebe had no success. The woman stuck at USD 300 and refused to budge. Phoebe was willing to pay it, but I said that if she did I would be unable to relocate the chimpanzee to Sweetwaters.

I made arrangements to meet with the head of the Liberia CITES Management Authority and went out of town to the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) offices where Theo Freeman, the head, was located. He seemed very willing to cooperate and introduced me to some Wildlife Officers, who offered to accompany me the following day to confiscate the chimpanzee. Phoebe had already been in contact with the FDA and they had approved her keeping primates at Libassa. They were in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary involving the FDA, Phoebe’s NGO called ISPARE, and Rudolph Antoune, owner of Libassa Ecolodge, who was generously donating the land.

The following morning the Wildlife Officers informed me by telephone that they unfortunately were unable to come into town to conduct the confiscation and said that Phoebe and I should do it. During Phoebe’s lunch break we returned to the Oriental Beauty Salon to resume our efforts to rescue Jacksy. Finally Phoebe pulled her trump card and told the Chinese woman that she was holding the chimpanzee illegally and that if she did not release it we would return with the authorities to arrest her and seize the chimpanzee.

The woman spoke poor English, so she rang her daughter, who lived in Monrovia and who spoke better English. Phoebe repeated what she had said about the illegality of holding the chimpanzee to the daughter. The daughter translated to her mother in Chinese, which miraculously transformed her attitude. Now she was more than willing to release Jacksy. We told her that she could come any time that she wanted to visit Jacksy at Libassa.

As Alfa was removing Jacksy from the chamber of horrors, she escaped and scampered around in the street. I bought an apple and put it under the beauty salon sign, which attracted Jacksy.

Jacksy came to pick up the apple. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Jacksy came to pick up the apple. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfa grabbed Jacksy and placed her in the transport cage that we had brought with us. Some nice sweet bananas were in the cage, so she was quite content to gorge herself. Phoebe had to return to work so I accompanied Jacksy to Libassa in the car with a driver I hired.

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Jacksy being rescued and driven to Libassa. She quietly munched bananas on the drive there. (Photos: D. Stiles)

Jacksy being rescued and driven to Libassa. She quietly munched bananas on the drive there. (Photos: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Libassa Ecolodge has a wonderful Ivoirian pastry chef named Mbama who looks after the primates at the sanctuary. He has a knack with handling them. Mbama helped me carry the cage to the enclosure, where we sat it down outside so that the two chimpanzee girls could get acquainted. Mbama and I hit it off right away, as I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire for three years and I could joke with him using Ivoirian French expressions.

Jacksy, since renamed Sweetpea by Phoebe, looks at Guey in wonder. Guey is no doubt the first chimpanzee that Jacksy has seen since she was snatched from her mother’s dead arms as a baby. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Jacksy, since renamed Sweetpea by Phoebe, looks at Guey in wonder. Guey is no doubt the first chimpanzee that Jacksy has seen since she was snatched from her mother’s dead arms as a baby. (Photo: D. Stiles)

My original intention was to leave Jacksy in the outer entrance enclosure for a few hours so that the chimpanzees could get used to each other, but Mbama said that this was unnecessary and just took Jacksy out of her transport cage and pushed her into the enclosure. Immediately Guey rushed over and began chasing Jacksy around.

Guey, who is bigger and more aggressive than Jacksy, chased Jacksy around when she was released into the enclosure. Mbama acts as referee. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey, who is bigger and more aggressive than Jacksy, chased Jacksy around when she was released into the enclosure. Mbama acts as referee. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

The two 2-year olds eventually settled down to share some mangoes. Jacksy is on the right. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The two 2-year olds eventually settled down to share some mangoes. Jacksy is on the right. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phoebe and I later went to find another chimpanzee that she had heard about. We found the house, but the owner was not at home. We could see the adult female chimpanzee through an opening in the wall locked up in a cramped cage in the front courtyard of the house. She saw us and reached out an arm imploringly. We banged on the gate and a house servant came out to speak to us. The chimpanzee had lived in the cage for the six years that the house servant had worked there, but she did not know when the chimpanzee had arrived or how old it was. A male was living with it when the servant had first started working there, but it had died a couple of years earlier.

The lonely chimpanzee living in the courtyard of a Liberian senator. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The lonely chimpanzee living in the courtyard of a Liberian senator. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Phoebe subsequently established that the chimpanzee belonged to a senator in the national legislature, a well-known businessman. The senator would have to agree voluntarily to free his pet. The adult was too big to keep in the Libassa enclosure – adults are extremely strong – so I decided that I had better limit our first attempted relocation to the two young orphans. If that succeeded and the procedure was established, a larger group of chimpanzees could be rescued and relocated to Sweetwaters in future.

Part II to come

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance sanctuary managers and executive board members visit Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary

The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) held a PASA Strategic Development Conference in Nairobi 4-7th November. PASA is a coalition of wildlife sanctuaries and NGO’s working across Africa to protect primates in the wild and to ensure those orphaned primates are cared for to the highest standards.

As part of the conference activities a number of the delegates from all over Africa came on a special visit to our sanctuary. The delegates included other primate sanctuary managers from chimpanzee range states and ape conservation programme managers, as well as some of the PASA Executive Board and the new Executive Director who had flown in from Oregon, USA. They visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary so they could see for themselves the excellent facilities we have here on Ol Pejeta Conservancy for looking after these very special primates.

Stephen Ngulu, the Sweetwaters manager, guides PASA visitors

Stephen Ngulu, the Sweetwaters manager, guides PASA visitors

During their day they of course visited the chimps themselves and spent time seeing how much they enjoyed living in Laikipia. They also got an exclusive behind the scenes tour to see the housing facilities we have here. The most recent extension to the housing was completed in April 2013 and expanded the capacity of the sanctuary by 35 so we now have space for approximately 75 chimpanzees. Sweetwaters could expand even further in future if necessary.

Sweetwaters chimpanzees live a good life

Sweetwaters chimpanzees live a good life

The PEGAS Project Manager was on hand to explain exactly how this extra capacity can help relieve some of the population pressure on other sanctuaries who are close to or full to capacity. Despite some sanctuaries being full there are still many apes out there in range states that need rescuing from the illegal bushmeat trade or the illegal international trade in live apes. They also need a home within a PASA sanctuary and the SCS with its new increased capacity is ready to fill the places with chimps in dire need of somewhere to stay.

This visit has been followed up by a meeting held on Monday 9th November in Nairobi, hosted by PEGAS to further discuss ways we can all come together to find the best way we can all cooperate to do what is best for the chimps that are in such desperate need of our help.

 

 

Jane Goodall Institute prepares architectural plans for Egypt

Great apes and monkeys have been seized – or not seized – on many occasions when detected at the Cairo International Airport in Egypt in illegal trade incidents. There has been a long-standing problem of what to do with primates that are caught being trafficked through the airport. This problem has been discussed within CITES, by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and by GRASP. They all recommend that a new facility be constructed to hold seized great apes, and Egypt has pledged to do this.

Currently the Giza Zoo is designated as the only rescue centre in Egypt for seized apes and monkeys. But the Giza Zoo was built in Victorian times (1891 to be exact) and is not an appropriate place to hold trafficked primates, particularly if they are to be returned to their country of origin as Egyptian national law and CITES regulations call for.

PEGAS has been working with Egyptian government authorities, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Egyptian animal welfare activist Dina Zulfikar to establish the new rescue centre. JGI has kindly prepared a very professional set of architectural plans for the facility. We hope that the Egyptian government will use these plans to construct this much needed facility.

Architectural plans for a great ape and monkey rescue center in Egypt prepared by the Jane Goodall Instutute

Architectural plans for a great ape and monkey rescue center in Egypt prepared by the Jane Goodall Institute (click to download, file is more than 50 mb)

 

 

 

 

Arrested Guinea former CITES official also signed Armenia permits

Ansoumane Doumbouya, the former Guinea CITES official arrested recently in Conakry for wildlife trafficking using fraudulent CITES permits, also signed permits for the export of bonobos to Armenia in 2011. No bonobos live in West Africa, they are restricted to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ofir Drori of EAGLE reports that Doumbouya has been transported to prison to be held for trial. An unsigned blank CITES permit was found in his bag!

The following story published in an Armenian newspaper gives some background and links to earlier stories about great ape imports to Armenia.

Arrest of Guinean Official Implicated in Illegal Animal Trade; Signed Export Permits for Armenia as Well

Kristine Aghalaryan

24 August, 2015

A bonobo smuggled into Armenia with a Guinea CITES permit

A bonobo smuggled into Armenia with a Guinea CITES permit

Ansoumane Doumbouya, former head of the CITES Management Authority of Guinea and a key player behind the illegal export of hundreds of chimpanzees and gorillas to China and elsewhere, was arrested on August 21.

EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement) announced the arrest of Ansoumane Doumbouya, along with the infamous wildlife trafficker Thierno Barry, in Conakry, Guinea’s capital.

Hetq has the following CITES export permit, signed by Doumbouya in 2011, under which two bonobo primates were imported by the Zoo Fauna Art company in Armenia.

The CITES export permit signed by Doumbouya

The CITES export permit signed by Doumbouya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hetq investigative series into the illegal animal trade in Armenia led to criminal charges against Zoo Fauna Art owner Artur Khachatryan.

The investigative division of Armenia’s Ministry of Finance has been dragging out an inquiry into the matter for one and a half years.

Even after he lost his position with CITES, Doumbouya retained a position within the Guinean Ministry of Environment as Commander of the national wildlife and forestry mobile enforcement brigade and was still signing CITES permits for traffickers.

Former head of CITES in Guinea arrested

On 21st August 2015 EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement) announced the arrest of Ansoumane Doumbouya, the former head of the CITES Management Authority of Guinea, along with the infamous wildlife trafficker Thierno Barry in Conakry.

Doumbouya has long been known as a key player behind the illegal export of hundreds of chimpanzees and gorillas to China and elsewhere using fraudulent CITES export permits (see The Conakry Connection). Even after he lost his position with CITES he continued to fraudulently sell permits to traffickers to allow them to ship protected wildlife around the world, in spite of the fact that there is currently a CITES suspension of trade from Guinea (PEGAS is in possession of a copy of such a fraudulent permit, signed by Doumbouya a year and a half after he was removed from the CITES office).

 Ofir Drori, head of EAGLE, has told PEGAS that there is huge political pressure from high government officials in Guinea to free Doumbouya. Those who wish to see the scourge of great ape trafficking stopped must protest political interference. Read the announcement by Charlotte Houpline, Director of GALF, below:

 Today is a special day of victory against high level corruption and complicity.

Since the beginning of the collaboration between GALF and the Guinean Government, many traffickers have been arrested and condemned. Today, however, we are proud to send one of the biggest traffickers behind bars – the former head of CITES in Guinea – Ansoumane Doumbouya.

Abusing his position as the authority of this international convention he has been assisting and collaborating with traffickers. Different reports, including one from the CITES secretariat, implicated him in illegal exports, but he is still holding a position within the Ministry of Environment as Commander of the national wildlife and forestry mobile enforcement brigade and still signing CITES permits for traffickers.

Doumbouya signed CITES permits to send wild-caught chimpanzee orphans to China to perform in circuses

Doumbouya signed CITES permits to send wild-caught chimpanzee orphans to China to perform in circuses

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shocking hidden footage in the link below shows a trafficker explaining in details the corrupt system.

https://youtu.be/M_KDIW1nLC8

This time, the vicious cycle of impunity has been broken. Our long and meticulous investigation that led to this arrest took more than a year as Doumbouya is experienced and cautious in his illegal activities. He had just delivered a CITES permit for 2 primates to an international trafficker, Thierno Barry that has been regularly exporting protected species to China and other part of the world, with the CITES’ head’s complicity. Thierno Barry have been arrested. The two operations have been conducted by the BCN INTERPOL and the GALF project.

The case of Doumbouya became one of the most known examples of CITES high level corruption and has been discussed in the convention’s international meetings. Several hundreds of apes and many other totally protected species, were known to have been exported through this corrupt system.

The former head of CITES was even convoked and interrogated by the police early last year, where he declared that all the CITES permits, bonobos, chimpanzees and others were falsified. He pretended to have lost his official stamp, and that the traffickers imitate his signature.

Our investigation aimed to demonstrate that Mr Doumbouya kept on delivering CITES permits to several wildlife traffickers. He was using an old stock of permits that he had kept with him even after he lost his position as the head of CITES.

The satisfaction from this arrest is very personal to me. During the 10 years I spent in Guinea, and before I started fighting in wildlife law enforcement, I was an advisor to the Ministry of Environment for 2 years, and it is in the neighboring office that Mr Doumbouya -the CITES head of Guinea, provided wildlife traffickers with CITES permits, abusing the same national laws and international conventions that he was entrusted to protect.

Thierno Barry, the director of a fictive company involved for a long time in the international wildlife trade (BARRY PETS COMPAGNY IMPORT-EXPORT) have been arrested holding protected primates and a CITES permit signed by Ansoumane Doumbouya. Before his arrest, during several months of undercover investigation, he explained the implication of the former CITES MA in the international illegal wildlife trade.

Here is the criminal’s description of the corrupt system:

Email –  “I have talked with the former director, head of CITES. He confirmed that he can provide me with the permits. He says he’s a bit afraid because he is no more the head of CITES. Chinese are difficult and often ask for confirmation”.

Hidden footage: “He is no more the head of CITES now, do you understand? When we take the CITES to send in Jordan, there could be problems if they see on the internet that he is not holding the position. He can say that I betrayed him. The former director has been fired but he has kept the old permits. But if there is some kind of confirmation, there will be some problems.

Do you understand? If the former director gives me, you know that he’s not allowed to give the CITES because he’s been fired, so if he gives me the CITES, I take the CITES and I send to Mr Hassan. If Mr Hassan sends to his ministry in Jordan to see the confirmation, there will be phone call to the one who is now in charge of CITES. This will create a lot of problems”.

Today, Mr Doumbouya faces the Justice. According to the penal code of Guinea, Mr Doumbouya faces charges from 6 months to 10 years of prison for usurpation of qualification and office, unlawful extension of authority, forgery on public acts and documents, forgery of administrative documents, receiving, complicity and corruption.

After a long suspension from CITES, Guinea has an important responsibility to send a strong message to its citizen and the international community. Doumbouya should be severely punished according to the law.

Please warmly congratulate these Ministers and ask for the maximal sentence for the former CITES head of Guinea.

Minister of Justice, Cheick SAKHO : cheick.sako1@gmail.com or moussakourouma90@yahoo.fr

Minister of Environment, Hadja Kadiatou NDIAYE : tenin-souleymane@yahoo.fr or hadjakadiatoundiaye@gmail.com

Charlotte

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Charlotte Houpline

Directeur GALF / Guinée- Application de la Loi Faunique www.wara-enforcement.org

First Time in World History a Judge Recognizes Chimpanzees as Legal Persons

In a landmark decision, the Nonhuman Rights Project has won the first step in granting habeas corpus to a nonhuman species. The court’s ruling effectively recognizes chimpanzees as “legal persons”. A court hearing will be held in May to decide if the decision can survive the State of New York’s response that there exists a legally sufficient reason to continue imprisoning the two chimpanzees.

If chimpanzees are considered to be “legal persons” in New York state, the repercussions would be great. Legal challenges could be launched across the United States to prohibit chimpanzees being owned as pets (orangutans already are), to be freed from zoos, circuses and safari parks, and to no longer be used in entertainment. There are more than two thousand chimpanzees in the U.S..

The implications are daunting. Where would they all go?

The article follows:

Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus

April 20, 2015 – New York, NY – For the first time in history a judge has granted an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a nonhuman animal. This afternoon, in a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.

Under the law of New York State, only a “legal person” may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are “persons.”

A common law writ of habeas corpus involves a two-step process. First, a Justice issues the order to show cause and a writ of habeas corpus, which the Nonhuman Rights Project then serves on Stony Brook University. The writ requires Stony Brook University, represented by the Attorney General of New York, to appear in court and provide a legally sufficient reason for detaining Hercules and Leo. The Court has scheduled that hearing for May 6, 2015, though it may be moved to a later day in May.

The NhRP has asked that Hercules and Leo be freed and released into the care of Save the Chimps, a sanctuary in Ft. Pierce, Florida. There they will spend the rest of their lives primarily on one of 13 artificial islands on a large lake in Ft. Pierce, Florida along with 250 other chimpanzees in an environment as close to that of their natural home in Africa as can be found in North America. In the second step of the process, the Court will determine whether the reason given by Stony Brook is legally sufficient, or whether Hercules and Leo should be freed.

Hercules and Leo’s suit was originally filed in the Supreme Court of Suffolk County in December, 2013. A Justice of that Court refused to issue the requested writ of habeas corpus, and the Appellate Division, Second Department, dismissed the appeal on the ground that the NhRP lacked the right to appeal.

In the belief that both courts erred, the Nonhuman Rights Project respectfully re-filed its petition for an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Hercules and Leo in March, 2015, in the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan, which led to today’s decision.

In two similar cases on behalf of two other chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed Motions for Leave to Appeal to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Decisions in both cases are pending.