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.


United Arab Emirates – research into illegal wildlife trade

PEGAS recently completed eight days of investigations into wildlife trade in the UAE, focusing on great apes. A local NGO assisted greatly.

The UAE is made up of seven emirates, each with its own local government headed by a hereditary sheikh. The federal government is based in Abu Dhabi and the federal President is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Vice President and Prime Minister is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai.

Map of the UAE. The red line shows the places that PEGAS visited.

Map of the UAE. The red line shows the places that PEGAS visited.

PEGAS visited the following facilities and individuals:

  • The Dubai Zoo – director of the new Dubai Zoo and Safari Park and a Dubai Zoo veterinarian.
  • Sheikh Butti bin Juma Al Maktoum Wildlife Centre, Dubai – the manager.
  • A Pet Care Clinic, Dubai – The veterinarian owner
  • Al Ain Zoo, Abu Dhabi – a veterinarian and a species coordinator.
  • Arabia’s Wildlife Centre, Sharjah – a South African weekend manager, spoke to us on short notice.
  • Al Bustan Zoological Centre, Sharjah – Closed to the public, but spoke with the guard and later had correspondence with the manager.
  • Sharjah Birds and Animal Market
  • Environment Agency, Ministry of Environment and Water, Abu Dhabi – Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector and Pritpal Soorae, Unit Head, Terrestrial Assessment and Monitoring, Terrestrial & Marine Biodiversity Sector.
  • We tried to meet with Dr. Ahmed Esmaeil Al Hashmi, head of CITES-UAE and Director, Biodiversity Department, Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai, but he said that he would have to obtain clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which never came.

Dubai Zoo

The current small and cramped Dubai Zoo will be closing down near the end of the year and the animals will be moved to the new, much larger grounds out of town on the road to Sharjah. Press reports indicated that the new zoo and safari park would hold over 1,000 animals, but the new director said the actual number would be closer to 3,000. Many additional animals will have to be legally sourced from zoos and animal dealers. Elephants are also planned, but PEGAS received conflicting information about whether they would be from Asia or Africa.

Dubai safari park

A sign for the new safari park in the Dubai Zoo.

There are currently 7 great apes in the Dubai Zoo, all held in old cages with concrete substrate and few enrichment amenities. Two gorillas said by the zoo to be of the eastern lowland subspecies (Gorilla beringei graueri) arrived as undocumented infants, which the veterinarian said were the result of illegal trade confiscations. The CITES Trade Database contains no reports of any kind involving any gorilla subspecies for the UAE. The International Studbook for the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla g. gorilla) confirms that the two in Dubai were captured in the wild from an unknown source. The male, Digit, was thought to have been born in 1994 and arrived in the zoo in October 1996. The female Diana was born about 1999 and arrived in January 2000.

Diana is in a particularly bad state and shows signs of severe depression, including grooming herself to the extent that she has pulled out quite a bit of hair on her arms. According to the new director, she has tried to interact with the male, but is rebuffed. The director thinks it’s because the male was captured so young he has not learned how to behave towards females.

Digit the male does not seem too badly off, but Diana shows signs of deep depression.

Diana shows signs of deep depression.


The male does not look so badly off.

PEGAS and a local NGO have made a plea to free the gorillas and relocate them to a sanctuary. Debby Cox of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) is assisting in assessing whether this would be possible. The director said that he wishes to have replacement gorillas in place before the Dubai municipality, which owns the zoo, would allow relocation of Digit and Diana. The new zoo plans call for a one-acre (0.40 ha) gorilla enclosure, which could house several gorillas comfortably.

The first order of business is to conduct DNA testing of the gorillas to confirm what subspecies they belong to. Additionally, the Congolese CITES and wildlife authorities (ICCN) must agree to request the return of the gorillas, if indeed they originated in the DRC, and agree that they go to a sanctuary, and a gorilla sanctuary must agree to take them.

The zoo has 4 chimpanzees, 2 each in two cages. None of them are listed in the European zoos chimpanzee studbook. Since 1990, when the UAE joined CITES, only two chimpanzees are reported in the CITES Trade Database as being imported for zoos, one in 1992 and one in 1999. Therefore, at least two of the Dubai chimpanzees were imported illegally. A local NGO will assist PEGAS to work with the zoo to see if more can be learned of the chimpanzees’ origins and when they arrived.

The four chimpanzees are held in two squalid cages.

The four chimpanzees are held in two squalid cages.












PEGAS requested that the chimpanzees be freed on the grounds that they were imported illegally and are living in poor circumstances, and has offered to assist their repatriation to an appropriate sanctuary in Africa. As with the gorillas, unless replacements can be found, this most likely will not occur. The new Dubai Zoo director intimated that he wishes to display a large group of chimpanzees in the new facility under construction.

There is one baby orangutan that the zoo veterinarian said was dropped off as a 4-5 month-old infant by an unknown person. It appears to be about 2 years old now. There are no records of orangutan imports to the UAE in the CITES Trade Database. It, too, is a victim of trafficking.

The baby orangutan is in a barren cage alone with no enrichment. PEGAS saw it rolling around trying to play.

The baby orangutan is in a barren cage alone with no enrichment. PEGAS saw it rolling around trying to play.



Sheikh Butti bin Juma Al Maktoum Wildlife Centre

The manager was kind enough to take us on a complete tour of the 17-hectare private breeding centre and wildlife park. The centre has no great apes and does not plan to acquire any. He did know of people who owned great apes, however, and provided information on routes and methods that he was aware of for smuggling illegal wildlife from Saudi Arabia, Oman and the sea into the UAE.

The Sheikh Butti Wildlife Centre is a well-managed private wildlife breeding centre.

The Sheikh Butti Wildlife Centre is a well-managed private wildlife breeding centre.

A Pet Care Clinic

The veterinarian owner treats the pets of many wealthy Emiratis and expat residents, including royal family members. The royal families import exotic animals at will, often using their own jet planes. They are not subject to normal CITES and other procedures and there are no authorities that can use legal means to halt the trade. He has made attempts to create awareness about animal welfare issues, but has been warned that he will be made to leave the UAE if he says anything negative about the government. This is a situation that affects all expatriate residents. He knew of illegal pet trading, but could say little specific about it. He did not think that great ape ownership was very common in the UAE.

Al Ain Zoo

The zoo has one gorilla and 7 chimpanzees. The western lowland gorilla, named Lady, was born about 1974 in Cameroon, according to the gorilla studbook, and was captured in the wild. She came to Al Ain Zoo in May 1978 with a male named Maxi, who died around 2006. The male is not in the studbook. Lady is kept in a fairly large enclosure with a grass and earth substrate and good enrichment amenities. There are no bars to the enclosures at Al Ain, but rather a number of reinforced glass windows are set in artificial “rock” walls for viewing. Lady lives in isolation, except for a rabbit that has been put in the enclosure for company. A large group of local boys was taunting the gorilla during the PEGAS visit.

Lady is a western lowland gorilla that arrived at Al Ain Zoo in 1978. She has been alone since about 2006.

Lady is a western lowland gorilla that arrived at Al Ain Zoo in 1978. She has been alone since about 2006.


9al ain

A group of young boys was taunting Lady at the time of the visit.

The chimpanzees are divided up into two groups, one consisting of 4 that is on view to the public, and 3 others that are kept out of view. All 7 are listed in the European chimpanzee studbook. The origin of 6 is unknown, while one is an in situ birth. The arrival dates do not correspond with any reported dates in the CITES Trade Database, thus all were imported outside of CITES procedures, all but one imported before the UAE joined CITES. The one enclosure on view to the public appeared to be well-maintained with good substrate and enrichment amenities.

11al ain

The chimpanzees looked content and healthy.

The spacious chimpanzee enclosure contained four animals.


The spacious chimpanzee enclosure contained four animals.

As with the Dubai Zoo, the Al Ain Zoo is currently expanding to become a more than 900 hectare wildlife park and resort, dedicated to wildlife conservation education. Hundreds of new animals are being imported to stock the open drive-through safari park, including several white rhinos that have already arrived from South Africa. PEGAS was told no new great apes or elephants are planned to be imported, even though a large, new ape house was being constructed. We asked to be informed if staff at Al Ain hear anything about great ape trade from the dealers they do business with.

An idealized vision of the new Al Ain safari park.

An idealized vision of the new Al Ain safari park.

Arabia’s Wildlife Centre

PEGAS and MEAF visited this facility on a Friday (the weekend) before it opened at 2 p.m. A workman telephoned the weekend manager, who drove to meet us. He informed us that the centre had no primates other than indigenous hamadryas baboons. The centre breeds wild species found in Arabia and supplies other vetted facilities on request. He said that the centre receives complaints from people about neighbours who keep noisy or dangerous exotic pets, but they advise people to contact the authorities in Sharjah.

The Arabia's Wildlife Centre has no great apes.

The Arabia’s Wildlife Centre has no great apes

Sharjah decreed a new law last November that outlawed private ownership of exotic animals that had been imported illegally. Since the amnesty for handing in animals expired in late December, the centre has been receiving a rash of exotic pets turned in to the government or anonymously dumped at the gate. Since most of them cannot be used for breeding and there is a lack of space to keep them, they are euthanized. They even found a baboon dressed in designer clothes and with a meticulously shaved beard chained to the gate.

As with other informants in the UAE, the manager was reticent to share information about wildlife traffickers and illegal trade, but said that he knew it occurred on a regular basis. The new Sharjah law might curb it.

Al Bustan Zoological Centre

This privately-owned zoo is not open to the public, but the guard at the gate said that chimpanzees had recently been brought and left there by private owners. PEGAS subsequently got into contact with the manager to find out the circumstances surrounding the chimpanzees. The two animals appear to be the result of illegal import as infant pets at least 15 years ago. They were originally kept in the house, but as they grew up and became dangerous they were moved out into an enclosure on the grounds. With the new law, the owners decided to dispose of the pair at Al Bustan.

The Al Bustan Zoo is privately owned.

The Al Bustan Zoo is privately owned.


It is closed to the public, but the guard said that chimpanzees had recently arrived there.

It is closed to the public, but the guard said that chimpanzees had recently arrived there.

PEGAS has offered to relocate the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters. The zoo is owned by an advisor to the President of the UAE. The manager said that he would consult with the owner and inform PEGAS of what they decided to do. PEGAS has requested Al Bustan to inform us of any future great ape arrivals.

Sharjah Birds and Animal Market

This infamous pet market has received considerable negative press and sparked campaigns to close it. Mammals, reptiles and birds are crammed into small cages and sold like they were inanimate commodities, not live creatures. It used to contain many exotic species, but since the new law, very few remain. PEGAS saw no primates in a tour of the market. It was deemed a waste of time to enquire about buying great apes, as con men abound there and they would simply spin a tale about how anything wanted could be obtained. It is hoped the absence of exotic animals will be long-lasting.

Environment Agency

PEGAS and a local NGO met with the Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, and Pritpal Soorae, Unit Head, Terrestrial Assessment and Monitoring, Terrestrial & Marine Biodiversity Sector. Dr. Al Dhaheri briefed us on the new bill that aims to regulate the possession and trade of predatory, dangerous and semi-dangerous animals and protect people from harm and from spreading animal diseases. She confirmed that great apes were included. The bill has passed many of the lower level stages of approval and is now with the federal cabinet. The Environment Agency expects the bill to become law before the end of 2015 and this will provide the legislative foundation upon which to enforce regulation of the illegal pet trade.

PEGAS raised the issue of airports such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi being used as both destination and transit points for illegal wildlife trade, for example chimpanzees and bonobos that are known to have transited Dubai to go to Armenia. Dr. Al Dhaheri said that the government does not have legal authority to seize anything in transit, but if something illegal was found they would notify the destination country authorities. The government has recently been communicating with the national airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia) and obtaining agreements from them not to carry illegal wildlife products. There are a number of royal family, cargo and low-cost airlines registered in the UAE, it is unknown if these were also contacted.

PEGAS has not revealed all of the information that was communicated by the different informants because of requested confidentiality, and because it could compromise ongoing investigations. A trafficker was also found that operates out of Dubai and India and who has posted online numerous great apes, other primates, wild cats, exotic birds, etc. Investigations are ongoing.


Dubai Crown Prince imports 7 elephants from Zimbabwe

In an update to an earlier news post regarding the capture of baby elephants in Zimbabwe for sale to the UAE, China and possibly other countries, PEGAS learned recently during a visit to the UAE that Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was the importer of the 7 elephants that the UAE reported to the media.

Sheikh Hamden, importer of the 7 Zimbabwe elephants

Sheikh Hamden, importer of the 7 Zimbabwe elephants









PEGAS was told that the 7 elephants had been held in captivity for some time and that they were not part of the group of baby elephants captured in the wild. There is at least one female adult in the group.

Elephants in the wild, where they belong

Elephants in the wild, where they belong









The elephants are being held as part of a private collection of wildlife. It is common for wealthy Emiratis to have private zoos and breeding centers, and many individuals keep exotic pets such as cheetahs, tigers and great apes. PEGAS will be publishing a news item shortly on the results of a nine-day visit to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, all Emirates in the UAE. Wildlife trade is rife, though the government is taking steps to curb the fashion trend of owning exotic wild animals. The royal families, naturally, are exempt.

Update 7 April 2015

PEGAS continues to receive erroneous claims that baby elephants from Zimbabwe are still destined for the UAE and that no elephants have  yet been sent. The UAE government has yet again substantiated the version PEGAS reported above on 25 March. The elephants are already in the UAE.

Fazza photographing one of his Zimbabwean elephants

Fazza photographing one of his Zimbabwean elephants

Non-Human Rights Project

This is an issue that will become increasingly important in the 21st century. 

New NhRP Video Series: “What is the Nonhuman Rights Project?”

We’re excited to share with you this new short animated video about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s mission—the first in a series of videos designed to help members of the public understand why legal personhood for great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales is so important.  Please share far and wide!

Further efforts to free trafficked great apes in Egypt

Ian Redmond, chairman of both Ape Alliance and The Gorilla Organization, visited Egypt 3-6 March with funds provided by PEGAS. The purpose was to follow up on matters arising from the visit made in November last year by PEGAS.

One of the priority matters is the freeing of the approximately 25 chimpanzees held at the Safaga Breeding Center, owned by Gamal Omar, a wealthy Egyptian businessman with close links to deposed President Hosni Mubarak, and friends with Tony Blair, former UK prime minister. Mr. Blair owns two properties in Sharm el Sheikh not far from the breeding centre and he is a visitor to Mr. Omar’s Tower Hotel & Country Club, where the breeding facility is located. All of these chimpanzees were either imported illegally, or are offspring of the trafficked apes.

The entrance to the Safaga Breeding Center, located on the grounds of the Tower Hotel & Country Club

The entrance to the Safaga Breeding Center, located on the grounds of the Tower Country Club

Ian gathered some very useful information during his necessarily brief visit. He first went to the Giza Zoo where the Egyptian CITES Management Authority is located. He met with Dr. Fatma Tammamm Mahmoud, Head of the Egyptian CITES Management Authority (MA), and Dr. Ragy Fakhry Toma, General Director of the Egyptian Wildlife Service and Deputy Head of the CITES MA.

In a meeting in Dr. Toma’s office, Ian was shown the microchip registration document that lists all of the “legally” held great apes in the country. Dr. Toma only showed the details of the chimpanzees held in the Giza Zoo and those held by Ashraf Enab, owner of the breeding facility formerly known as Utopia and now named the Egyptian Agricultural Farm, according to what Enab told PEGAS last November.

Ian Redmond, on right, in discussions with Dr. Ragy Toma of CITES-Egypt

Ian Redmond, on right, in discussions with Dr. Ragy Toma of CITES-Egypt

The Giza Zoo lists 7 chimpanzees, although one female, Mouza, died the day before Ian arrived from a longstanding medical condition. There is supposedly a new resident of the zoo, a baby chimpanzee seized at the Cairo airport on 8th February this year. More will be said about this baby below.

A visit to the Giza Zoo by PASA in 2009 noted that there were 8 chimpanzees there, while other visits by anonymous investigators reported by Karl Ammann stated that in early 2010 there were 3 young chimpanzees and in early 2011 there were 4 young chimpanzees, plus Mouza, who arrived in April 2010 from Safaga Breeding Center, as she could no longer breed due to her illness. Unfortunately, the Ammann reports are not complete enough to know whether the three and then four young chimpanzees (plus Mouza) observed were the total number. Dina Zulfikar reported that some chimpanzees were moved temporarily to Alexandria Zoo in 2010 and returned to Giza Zoo in 2011.  Hilda Tresz reported in October 2011 that there were 7 chimpanzees at Giza Zoo, including 3 infants with a pair of surrogate ‘parents’, plus 3 males at the Alexandria Zoo. PEGAS reported 7 chimpanzees in Giza Zoo in November 2014, which was confirmed as the total from knowledgeable informants. There were none in Alexandria Zoo, one was said to have died. That still leaves 2 chimpanzees unaccounted for from October 2011 (7 at Giza, 3 at Alexandria, 1 died).

Koko, said to be a long-standing inhabitant of Giza Zoo, but was not mentioned as being present in Ammann's 'Cairo Connection II' report.

Koko, said to be a long-standing inhabitant of Giza Zoo.










The microchip list indicates the 7 long-term residents are:

  1. Prince – Adult M, born February 2000
  2. Enjy – Adult F, born February 2000
  3. Loza – F, born June 2005
  4. Bobbo – M, April 2004
  5. Mesh Mesh – M, born June 2006
  6. Koko – Adult M, born October 1996
  7. Mouza – Adult F, born November 2003 (deceased March 2015)
Sign in the Giza Zoo explaining Mouza's illness (photo: Hilda Tresz)

Sign in the Giza Zoo explaining Mouza’s illness (photo: Hilda Tresz)









Ashraf Enab’s chimpanzees, which until 2010 were at his Hauza Hotel in Sharm el Sheikh, were listed as being:

  1. Frisca – F – 4.5 years (now 10)
  2. Naema – F – 5 years (now 10.5)
  3. Beauty – F – 4.5 years (now 10)
  4. Memo – M – 7-8 years (now 12.5-13.5)
  5. Simba – M – 3.5 years (now 9)
  6. Sonchi – M – 1.5 years (now 7)

Mr. Enab told PEGAS in November 2014 that two chimpanzees had been born at his breeding facility recently and that now he had 8. Given the ages of the females, producing offspring would be highly unlikely. Chimpanzees normally have their first offspring at 13-14 years of age. No female had even reached 11 years of age by last year when the births supposedly took place. This suggests two baby chimpanzees were added in 2014 illegally to Enab’s breeding facility.

Dr. Ragy said that the Africa Safari Park had 4 chimpanzees, which if true means that one has been added since PEGAS visited last year. Where did it come from?

Safaga Breeding Centre was reported to have 17 chimpanzees, but Dr. Ragy declined to show the details (the official permit list is shown in the News report of the PEGAS Egypt visit). PEGAS confirmed that Gamal Omar had 25 chimpanzees at Safaga in November 2014.

Ian attempted to see the seized baby chimpanzee that was supposed to be in the Giza Zoo, but was told that the baby was ‘settling in’ and was being kept in the indoors quarters of a cage that was empty (PEGAS also observed an empty cage in the chimpanzee section of the zoo). Is the seized chimpanzee still in Giza Zoo?

There have been various versions of the circumstances surrounding the seizure of the baby chimpanzee. Dina Zulfikar, a well known animal welfare activist in Egypt, questioned publicly the government’s handling of the seizure case, which elicited official responses from different government offices. Dr. Ragy gave Ian his version, which differed somewhat from the official written responses.

The seizure actually occurred at about 9 p.m. on 8th February during the passenger departures security screening, not on 9th February as reported in the press. A Kuwaiti man was carrying a baby chimpanzee in a pet transport carrier, intending to fly to Kuwait on Egyptair. Security considered it a potential risk to passengers and apparently airport police and a wildlife veterinarian were summoned. The written documents stated that the Kuwaiti man was unaware that it was illegal to export the chimpanzee without CITES and health documents so “the police dismissed the passenger”, according to Dina Zulfikar’s translation provided to PEGAS. Zulfikar insists that no proper police report was filed with a tracking case number, though the government reply stated that a memo report was made by the airport police.

Dr. Ragy stated that the trafficker was fined according to Article 84 of Law No. 9 of 2009, therefore proper procedures were followed. The written replies make no mention of this and state that the airport police applied Law No. 4 of 1994 and Law 1150 of 1999 to justify seizure of the chimpanzee and its transfer to Giza Zoo. Ms. Zulfikar continues to call for prosecution of the Kuwaiti trafficker and repatriation of the baby chimpanzee to its country of origin, as determined by DNA testing, in conformance with Article VIII of the CITES convention. Dr Ragy agreed that a DNA test should be taken to determine which sub-species of chimpanzee it was and its likely area of origin, and that repatriation to a suitable sanctuary would be the best outcome.

The seized baby chimpanzee with a veterinarian at the Giza Zoo at the time it was deposited. Is it still there?

The seized baby chimpanzee with a veterinarian at the Giza Zoo at the time it was deposited. Is it still there?

The chimpanzee’s country of origin is being treated by the authorities as Egypt, however. They are using this to explain why no quarantine was carried out. Dr. Ragy told Ian that the Kuwaiti man had obtained the chimpanzee from a Saudi resident in Egypt. If Dr. Ragy knows this, why isn’t the Saudi being investigated for illegal CITES Appendix I species trading? There are many inconsistencies in the Egyptian government accounts.

After Giza Zoo, Ian attended the 15th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, which was taking place in Cairo. He had the opportunity to inform a CITES officer who was attending of the chimpanzee seizure, and brief Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, and Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species, on the purpose of his visit. PEGAS hopes that CITES will investigate further the continuing illegal movement of great apes into and out of Egypt.

Ian then travelled to Sharm el Sheikh where he held two meetings with Ashraf Enab and a joint meeting with Enab and Gamal Omar. These two men are arguably the most active dealers in great apes in Egypt. Important points to emerge from these meetings are:

  • The Safaga Breeding Center has 25 chimpanzees and 3 gorillas. This means that two gorillas have been disposed of since late last year. Enab confirmed that Omar had sold one male that he was aware of. Where did they go?
  • Enab believes that the baby chimpanzee seized at the Cairo Airport originated in the Safaga Breeding Center. DNA testing could provide proof that the baby was bred at Safaga.
  • Omar sells chimpanzees for USD 10,000 each.
  • Omar promised that Ian could visit Safaga, but in the end the visit did not materialize.
  • Ashraf Enab repeated his willingness to acquire the chimpanzees and relocate them to a sanctuary, subject to Gamal Omar being willing to allow it. Gamal Omar seemed open to collaborating, but did not commit to anything and said he needed to check with his Minister (the Minister of Agriculture, under which CITES is located and Safaga’s holding permit emanates).
  • No chimps have been imported to Egypt in recent years because of the revolution in Libya; they used to come from Nigeria, Niger or Sierra Leone, on Afriqiyah Airlines flights from Tripoli, but the civil war put a stop to that (flights have been suspended).
  • Only three private facilities are licensed to keep great apes in Egypt, those of Enab, Omar and the Africa Safari Park.
PASA Egypt gorillas

Two of the five gorillas listed in the Safaga Breeding Center’s holding permit have apparently been illegally sold. (Photo: PASA)

It is clear that in spite of two visits by the CITES Secretariat to Egypt (2007 and 2010) and numerous promises by the Egyptian government to halt great ape trafficking and to take action when it occurred, that it is business as usual. The Safaga Breeding Center is producing great apes for sale with the blessing of CITES-Egypt.

It is well past time that the great apes acquired illegally and held captive at Safaga be freed. They should be sent to appropriate sanctuaries, preferably in their countries of origin. DNA tests should be carried out immediately, as CITES-Egypt promised to do at the 15th CITES Conference of the Parties. They have so far reneged on their promise.

CITES-Egypt has been written to recently requesting DNA testing and repatriation of the seized baby chimpanzee, copied to the CITES Secretariat and GRASP. We await a reply.

New Dubai Zoo to hold more than 1,000 animals

The current Dubai Zoo has been crammed into a 1.5 hectare space for several years. It holds hundreds of animals, including Eastern lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. The zoo will be moving to a new 120 hectare plot of land and expanding into the Dubai Safari Park. The Safari Park will have four sections, African, Asian and Arabian Villages and an open parkland for animals coming from different geographical locations, with an architecture and landscaping to match.

Will the new Dubai Safari Park import illegal great apes?

Will the new Dubai Safari Park import illegal great apes?

The new safari park will no doubt need new animals to stock its huge expansion. What species will they be? Where will they come from? Will they be imported following CITES regulations?

We ask those questions because the current Dubai Zoo has two Eastern lowland gorillas, named Digit and Daina, but the CITES Trade Database shows no gorilla imports since 1990, the year the UAE joined CITES. Were they imported prior to 1990?

PEGAS hopes to answer the questions, particularly in regard to great apes, in the coming months.

Conflicting reports in Cairo seized chimpanzee case

In a further development of the baby chimpanzee that was seized at the Cairo International Airport on 8th February, the CITES-Egypt Scientific Authority has announced that quarantine procedures and DNA testing were not carried out because the chimpanzee originated in Egypt. The infant would not have come from a public zoo. The Kuwaiti trafficker was said by CITES-Egypt to be carrying the infant in a pet carrier and he was heading for Kuwait on Egyptair. Supposedly he was fined and allowed to continue his travels because he was unaware of Egyptian laws. The truth, according to an investigation carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture reported by Dina Zulfikar, is that the chimpanzee was concealed in a closed bag and the trafficker was let go with no penalty, and not even a proper police report.

The investigation report that indicated that the Kuwaiti trafficker was concealing the chimpanzee, indicating that he knew trying to export it without CITES and health papers was illegal (Photo: Dina Zulfikar)

The investigation report that indicated that the Kuwaiti trafficker was concealing the chimpanzee, indicating that he knew trying to export it without CITES and health papers was illegal (Photo: Dina Zulfikar)

There are three facilities licensed by CITES-Egypt to hold chimpanzees: the Safaga Breeding Center in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian Farm for Agriculture (aka Utopia Farm) about 65 km from Cairo on the Alexandria road, and the African Safari Park further along that road. Did it come from one of those? PEGAS gained information in Egypt last November that Safaga had several baby chimps and that the owner was planning to sell some.

Will CITES-Egypt try to enforce its own laws and investigate the origin of the chimpanzee? Or will it do as it has done in the past and simply cover it up?

Update on Cairo Airport chimpanzee seizure

The veterinarian at the Giza Zoo said that the baby chimpanzee seized at the Cairo Airport last week was smuggled in from a third country. PEGAS is attempting to find out which country it was and the transport mode of entry.

From at least the early 1990s until recently, a well-known Egyptian-Nigerian dual nationality woman trafficker was known to smuggle chimpanzees and gorillas sourced from many African countries to Cairo. Conakry, Guinea and Kano, Nigeria were two of her primary dispatch cities. She was aided by an Egyptian veterinarian and her daughters. See “Africa’s Lost Apes” on our Publications page for more details. Is one or both of these trafficking routes still operating?

The baby chimpanzee seized in the Cairo Airport was put into a cold, hard cell in the Giza Zoo. (Photo: Mohammed And Elhammid)

The baby chimpanzee seized in the Cairo Airport was put into a cold, hard cell in the Giza Zoo. (Photo: Mohammed And Elhammid)

Both Ethiopian Airlines and Egyptair fly Kano-Cairo via a neighboring country, and both airlines have been implicated in illegal wildlife transport in the past.

Baby chimpanzee seized in Cairo airport

Last Monday (9 February) a man from Kuwait nervously put his carry-on bag into the security x-ray machine at Cairo International Airport and prayed. His prayers were not answered as the security agents seized the bag and opened it. A frightened baby chimpanzee, hunched up into a ball, stared up at them.

The agents confiscated the chimpanzee and called Dr. George Michelle of the Egyptian Wildlife Services, an arm of the national CITES Management Authority, who is the designated wildlife trade officer at the airport. It is still unclear who made the decision, but the Kuwaiti trafficker was released without charge to continue his journey, and thus we will never know the circumstances of the attempted illegal trade. Where did the chimpanzee originate? Where was it going and for what purpose? Dr. Michelle sent the chimpanzee to the Giza Zoo.

Dr. Dina Zulfikar, an Egyptian animal welfare activist, declared to the Egyptian government on her Facebook page [edited], “As a civil society representative I inquire why an interrogation did not take place with the Kuwaiti passenger, why were national law and the international convention (CITES) not applied? I also inquire why a DNA test was not ordered, why also did this case of violation of laws and international conventions not follow normal procedures in compliance with the CITES Egypt statement to CoP10….? Transparency should be the policy of all Egyptian Governmental entities according to the law and the constitution, thus you are kindly asked in public to provide a statement about the confiscation and procedures taken. We care to follow, so does all the world.”

Will the Egyptian government comply with her plea?

The Giza Zoo is the only legal holding facility for seized, illegally trade wildlife in Egypt. The CoP 10 (10th CITES Conference of the Parties, 2010) document referred to by Dr.Zulfikar, stated that the Egyptian government recognized that it did not have an appropriate rescue centre for confiscated illegally traded wildlife, but that they would build one. They have not done this, so under what conditions is this poor baby chimpanzee being held? The photo below shows the deplorable type of cage that chimpanzees are kept in at the Giza Zoo.


Photo: Dan Stiles

All facilities holding CITES-listed species must be registered and monitored by CITES-Egypt. The CoP 10 document (SC58 Doc. 23 Annex), which can be read here, states that all captive great apes held at these facilities would be DNA-tested and microchipped. If these pledges have indeed been complied with, the identity of the facility and/or African subregion origin of the baby chimpanzee should be able to be established by DNA testing of the baby.

What should happen in a case like this? Both CITES, in Article VIII, and Egyptian law, in Ministerial Decree 1150, call for prosecution of the offenders and either return of the seized animal to its country of origin, or placement of it in an appropriate facility. A cage in the Giza Zoo is not an appropriate facility for a baby orphan chimpanzee.

The management of the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya has written to CITES-Egypt to inform them that it is willing and able to accept up to 30 captive chimpanzees, as long as all Egyptian and Kenyan laws and CITES regulations are respected. PEGAS has offered to pay for their transportation from Egypt to Sweetwaters.

Why does CITES-Egypt not even have the courtesy to reply to our offer? Why won’t they free the captive great apes held in bondage in contravention of CITES regulations? Will CITES-Egypt just return the baby chimpanzee to the breeding facility in Sharm el-Sheikh?

Lebanon animal welfare law in the works

Jason Mier of Animals Lebanon, a PEGAS partner, has sent us the draft of the Animals Protection and Welfare Law. It is one of the most advanced pieces of legislation that we have ever seen for protecting wild, domestic and farm animals from mistreatment. The contents of this bill could be used as a template to be initiated in many other countries, particularly where abuses are well known. If anyone would like to see a copy, please contact PEGAS. The following article from the Lebanon Daily Star provides a summary:

The smile hasn’t left the face of Animals Lebanon Director Jason Mier since it was announced Wednesday that the organization’s animal welfare bill had been approved by the Cabinet after over three years of campaigning.

“So much time and resources, by so many good people, and the outcome is exactly what we hoped for,” Mier tells The Daily Star.

chimps march 08 061The group first began thinking about the project back in September 2009 after Mier attended a conference in Jordan on animal welfare in the region and the importance of legislation.

“Then there was more than a year of research, understanding laws in the region, international conventions, best practices and general trends of animal welfare worldwide, and legislation that directly influences Lebanon (EU, trading partners and so on),” he says, before the group began putting pen to paper.

The draft law was then presented to the Ministry of Agriculture and international organizations for animal welfare such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) for feedback.

What followed was the public launch of the draft law in November 2011 under the patronage of then-Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, a near yearlong consultation process between Animals Lebanon and the ministry to refine the law – under the final say of Animals Lebanon – and a revised version of the law launched in February 2013 for public feedback.

The campaign then continued under the new agriculture minister, Akram Chehayeb, who submitted the final draft for Cabinet approval in late October 2014.

“The purpose of this law is to ensure the protection and welfare of live animals and regulate establishments which handle or use such animals, in compliance with the related international conventions and regulations, especially CITES and OIE,” Article 2 of the draft law states.

Approved by the Cabinet Wednesday, the comprehensive bill has articles detailing the appropriate response in line with animal welfare in scenarios ranging from general handling, to strays, to outlawing the giving of animals as prizes.

The welfare of animals in Lebanon has been brought to the fore recently following multiple scandals that broke out after Health Minister Wael Abu Faour began a crackdown on food safety standards back in November.

Since, there have been closures and improvements made in slaughterhouses but there are still many instances where animal welfare falls short. While the problems associated with stray animals and the municipalities handling of them have been gaining attention, there are also less publicized issues, such as dog fighting.

“Even on the waterfront we’ve seen dog fighting,” Mier tells The Daily Star. “Some of these people are online – there are people with websites now on how to train your animals for fighting, which steroids to give them, locally made products to be able to train for fighting.”

The Animals Protection and Welfare Law seeks to criminalize such behavior, and provide a comprehensive set of regulations to standardize and improve the conditions of animals in Lebanon.

“The law is also for the public good, [it] improves our compliance with international conventions, and improved animal welfare can bring economic, social and health benefits for individual citizens and society as a whole,” Mier says.

While it has now passed through Cabinet, the bill must still be approved by Parliament to be published in the Official Gazette and become law.

Animals Lebanon is confident of passing that final hurdle. The organization has been in contact with MPs from the beginning of the campaign and believes there is a lot of support for the bill in Parliament.

There is still much work to be done however, Mier says, both in terms of having the law enacted and then enforced.

“Compliance of any law is never 100 percent, this is why there are police and penalties, and enforcement is never 100 percent as there are always going to be competing priorities. What we want to see, and expect to see, is a continual increase in the compliance and enforcement,” he says.

With the organization now turning its focus to the passage of the bill through Parliament, they acknowledge that that the law is “not an end or solution” but rather a “vital tool” in continuing to make animal welfare improvements in Lebanon.

Read the original article here:

Chinese television show to feature great apes

PEGAS has learned that Hunan TV, a popular, nationwide, free television channel in China will launch a new “reality” show on January 24th featuring five pop stars playing zookeepers at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, which claims to be the largest animal theme park in Asia. It covers 130 hectares (over 320 acres) and imprisons over 20,000 animals and 500 species. The show is sponsored by, an Amazon-type online shopping corporation based in Guangzhou, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

IMG_6418 - Copy

A trailer from the TV show showing three of the pop star “zookeepers” with an infant orangutan. 

“If this show turns out successful, there will be sequels or copy-cats…”, warned a Chinese great ape expert (who wishes to remain anonymous), who found out about the new show.

Chimelong is infamous for its spectacular animal entertainment acts, using great apes, elephants, bears and many other animals. A report by Animals Asia in 2009 concluded, “Zoos and safari parks are ideally placed to foster compassion for animals and raise awareness and understanding of the welfare and conservation needs of individual animals and species. Xiangjiang [a.k.a. Chimelong] Safari Park, Guangzhou Crocodile Farm and Chimelong International Circus make no attempt to provide this knowledge and to educate their visitors for the benefit of welfare and conservation.”

Animals Asia found that the animals at Chimelong were kept in cramped quarters and that cruel methods were employed to train them to perform circus acts.

Where are the great apes coming from? Is illegal trade involved? This is something that PEGAS will attempt to establish.

Chimelong chimp

Two chimpanzees are housed in a small barren enclosure containing plastic bottles, which have been thrown into the enclosure by the public. The chimpanzees’ indoor enclosure has one complete glass wall, and no private area, therefore the chimpanzees cannot escape from the public glare. (Photo: Animals Asia)

PEGAS would also not be surprised to see baby African elephants from Zimbabwe turn up on the TV show sometime in the not too distant future. Currently there are only Asian elephants at Chimelong.

Stay tuned.

Russia under the microscope as ape trade booms there

This Daily Mail article singling out Russia as a large-scale great ape import-export centre comes as no surprise to PEGAS. We had already begun an analysis of CITES great ape trade data, which shows an unusually high proportion of great ape trades involving Russia, often with countries formerly part of the USSR. Investigations by the Hetq newspaper in Armenia also identified a wildlife trafficking kingpin based there that exported large numbers of great apes and monkeys to Russia. One must ask the question after reading the Daily Mail article: What is the Russia CITES Management Authority doing? One must also ask: What will CITES do about this obvious abuse of the Articles and Resolutions in its international Convention?

The Daily Mail reports:

Baby orangutans are being bred in Russia as exotic pets to sell as playthings for the super-rich and are being advertised for sale on the internet for £24,000, a MailOnline investigation has found.


A baby orangutan at Exotic Zoo in Desna village outside Moscow (Photo: EAST2WEST)

And the endangered creatures are not just being reared in Russia but also being imported in an apparent defiance of international rules.

With very little regulation and a myriad of legal loopholes, a booming animal trade has grown with a shocking selection of animals – from macaques to falcons – being offered up for sale over the internet.

At a “nursery” called Exotic Zoo in Desna village outside Moscow, MailOnline was offered an orangutan for two million roubles (£23,845).

The great apes are in the Red Book, an internationally recognized list of endangered species.

Dealers claim that they have “all the documentation” and boast that they make ideal pets because they mimic their owners, “won’t bite” and can be dressed in clothes and nappies.

The male orangutan we were offered was around one year old and and appeared to be in good condition.

The seller, who did not give his name but was in his 40s, told our reporter, who was posing as the representative of a rich potential buyer: “Here you are, please hold it. Don’t be afraid, they are like babies.

“He won’t bite, he’s curious about you. Let him hold your clothes with his hands and legs. He is about one year old, this is a perfect age to find a new home for him.

“This is a lovely pet, you can communicate with him, they are often like family members. They’re never aggressive if they are born and brought up by people.”

One dealer here told potential customers that all the animals “were born in the nursery under supervision of experienced professionals” and that they are regularly checked by vets.

“The young ones are absolutely domestic. They love to play, they have no problems wearing clothes or Pampers.”

Our reporter, Tanya, was allowed to hold the orangutan for around 15 minutes. The curious animal looked intently into her face.

“Please tell your boss to make up his mind quickly, many are interested in orangutans and they are not born very often,” said the dealer, evidently expecting a rush of business ahead of New Year, when Russians traditionally exchange seasonal gifts.


(Click to enlarge) This Russian exotic animal website offered a chimpanzee for sale. (Photo: EAST2WEST)

Another dealer at Exotic Zoo told Tanya: “I expect you have been calling other advertisements too.

“Please be careful with other offers, there are many people who bring these animals illegally from abroad.

“I’m sure your boss does not want problems with his new pet.

“We are the only legal nursery (in Russia) because we have the appropriate licenses.”

He claimed their work was entirely above board.

“Our animals are born in Russia because we are a nursery, this is why all their documents are in order,” he said.

“When you buy an animal from us, you get its international passport and all the necessary veterinary documents.

“Having all these, you can easily travel with your animal wherever you want – around Russia or even abroad if you need it.

“Our monkeys have electronic chips in their bodies with international numbers, they can be easily identified if necessary.

“This is why our monkeys and other animals are quite expensive but if your client is serious, he would understand the difference.

“We have been in this business for many years. We have co-operated not only with private clients but also with zoos.

“We will give you all necessary recommendations how to take care of the animal.

“We will stay in touch if you need any help in the future.”

The nursery took strict measures to stop any photography at its site, though MailOnline obtained pictures inside this breeding centre for rare tropical animals which is based in two converted family houses.


Another captive baby orangutan offered for sale (Photo: EAST2WEST)

Unless she made a down payment of thousands of pounds undertaking to buy the baby orangutan, Tanya was told she was not permitted to photograph the creature or the facilities.

Tanya was told the breeders were scared of interest from journalists in their facility which is located behind a barrier in two modern villas in a gated and secure residential compound within easy reach of Moscow.

“We don’t want to see the pictures of our place all over the internet,” said the dealer. “We are doing a really good job here, as you can see. We do not need extra publicity.”

Exotic Zoo – and many facilities like it – claim to be running an entirely legal operation.

Russia is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which prohibits their unlicensed international trade, notably for ownership by private individuals.

CITES told MailOnline that Exotic Zoo was not registered with them, which means the nursery may not be licensed to supply the correct documentation for the animals to be taken abroad.

However, there is no suggestion Exotic Zoo is trading internationally.

Russia’s own laws, however, do not impose curbs on nurseries which conduct their own breeding programs of these rare animals, nor on sales of the resulting animals to wealthy people wanting exotic pets.

Even where there are penalties relating to the movement and ownership of endangered animals, the fines are too small to act as a deterrent.

In Britain, the keeping and breeding of orangutans requires a strict license under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act which experts say would not be granted unless at an approved zoo as part of an international breeding program and certainly not for use as pets or domestic trade.

Because they are an endangered species, all breeding is controlled by the EEP (an endangered species program). Zoos and others who do not follow this can be prosecuted.

Some primates, however, are allowed as pets in the UK, but conservationists are pushing for a complete ban as seen in other EU countries including the Netherlands and Hungary.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International UK, said: “Keeping any primate as a pet unquestionably compromises their welfare, threatens species conservation and puts human health and safety at risk.

“Monkeys and apes have very complex needs that cannot possibly be met in people’s homes as pets.

“Larger monkeys like macaques are powerful and potentially dangerous animals who are quite capable of inflicting severe bites, particularly if they are kept in stressful and inappropriate conditions.”

In November, the International Fund for Animal Welfare sounded an alarm over the rampant sale of exotic animals over the web. The report highlighted Russia and China as the worst offenders.

The report stated: “Although there is a considerable difference in the size of the market, with a $1,953,060 turnover a year, Russia is the second biggest illegal animal market among the 16 countries we studied, after China $2,744,500.”

Anna Filippova, a campaigner for IFAW Russia, told MailOnline: “There is a colossal, large-scale problem.

“Primates, parrots and reptiles are in the greatest demand among the animals traded via the internet.”

So any publicity that throws a spotlight on the distasteful practice is unwelcome and may prompt a crackdown.

Another dealer active on the web – called Viktor Sergeevich, evidently with a different supply chain – also offered orangutans to MailOnline, quoting a price of $40,000 (£25,700).

“I have two young orangutans for sale, both about one year old. They were not brought from anywhere, they were born in a special nursery in Russia,” he told us by telephone.

“We know the parents and we can be sure they are healthy. All documents are in Russian. All are in order, you can check yourself, if you like.”

A third trader in rare animals – called Viktor Saveliyev, based in Volgograd – said his orangutans were imported rather than bred in Russia.

His outfit, called Zoo Ekzo, amounts to an online mail-order service.


(Click to enlarge) A screenshot of Zoo Ekzo’s website showing the huge selection of animals for sale. (Photo: EAST2WEST)

Customers specify their desires for exotic pets, and his company seek to supply them accordingly.

“I do not have males, only female, several, all about eight months old,” he claimed when asked about his current stock of orangutans.

“They are imported but they have passed quarantine, vets have checked them, all of them are healthy. There won’t be any problem with them. They are currently in Moscow.”

He warned: “I hope you understand the price is high – it is $60,000 (£38,600).”

He promised the animals would have “all the necessary documents with them”. But he said providing “official” documentation would lead to an extra 7.5 per cent in the price.

He urged: “Think, and call back.”

Ever the salesman, Saveliyev challenged claims from other breeders that orangutans could be raised effectively in captivity.

He claimed his source was unspecified “European zoos”, and that the orangutans were legally imported – even though animal rights experts dispute that there can be legitimate imports for private clients.

Saveliyev said he had “ties” with breeders in Russia, other ex-Soviet states as well as foreign countries – “and also zoos, circuses and catchers”.

Having made an order for an exotic animal, customers collecting it from his company pay 50 per cent in advance. Those who expect delivery, shell out 100 per cent at the point of order.

“The nursery was established over 10 years ago,” the company states on the internet. “If you do not live in Moscow we will help to get (the rare animal) delivered to you anywhere in our motherland…

“We do not resell or buy illegal monkeys, parrots or other creatures. All our animals have gone through quarantine. They have all have certificates and papers.”

MailOnline also discovered a varied number of web adverts for orangutans in Russia, as these examples show:

“For real connoisseurs of exotic animals. Offering an orangutan primate. Orangutans are very smart animals. In their natural habitat they use tools, in captivity they pick up the human traits and try to resemble their owners. One year old male and female available. Social, playful.”

“Offering very kind and playful baby-orangutans. These primates resemble humans and will be perfect for a mini-zoo. Not only a smart, unique, and intellectually developed animal, but also a full family member and friend who will always cheer you up. To find out the price and the procedure to buy the animal call…”

“Orangutan for sale. Male and female available. Passport, all documents, everything proper. Shipment to different regions.”

“Exotic monkeys for sale. Always available, males and females. Only legal. All animals were born in the apery, healthy, and taken care of by professionals.”

Phone numbers posted by advertisers are regularly changed. During the course of this investigation we also discovered sales of rare monkeys, falcons, leopards, crocodiles and snakes.

Ms Filippova said: “Most often the exotic animals are bought to be used for commercial purposes – for example, for taking photos, which is legal.

“Or they are kept in menageries (a small collection of exotic animals) – which are still legal in Russia, even though we live in the 21st century. But these breeding centres are not licensed in any way.”

She explained there are a number of “nurseries” or “foster care centres” around thirty to two hundred miles from Moscow.

She said that many animals arrive in Europe through illegal or legal means and are then transported via Turkey and Ukraine to Russia.

“There are all sorts of ways that animals are smuggled in. There was a case in the Far East (of Russia) when baby turtles were attached to the bottom of a car with sticky tape,” she said.

“Only 20 per cent of the animals survive the journey but that’s enough to pay off for the expenses in this trade.

“If it is a big primate, it is brought to Russia as a cub. The customs authorities shut their eyes to it, which is in a way understandable. It is not clear what they can do with an animal if they impound it.”

She added that if an animal is taken out of the wild and put in a zoo legally because of injury or the destruction of its habitat, there is nothing in place to regulate its offspring being sold on.

Legislation is a “huge black hole”, she said, adding that there is no specific laws which govern the breeding centres or the conditions that the animals should be kept in.

Ms Filippova added that owners can “show any sort of printed paper to prove that an animal has legal origins”.

Natalia Dronova, WWF-Russia species coordinator, said: “Legal and illegal animals mix up.

“Nurseries develop their own sorts of documents, vet passports and other sets of documents”.

Read the original article here.

Trafficking great ape body parts in Cameroon

PEGAS had been noting for some time the unusual number of great ape bone and skull seizures being announced by LAGA in Cameroon, wondering what was going on. This Al Jazeera article explains that ape parts are increasingly being used in “mystical” ceremonies involving Nigerians and that trafficking networks now run across the border to big cities in neighboring Nigeria. This is a frightening new development that threatens great ape survival even more.

Congo Gorillas

New poaching of great apes for skulls and limbs is further threatening dwindling populations (Photo: AP)

Al Jazeera reports:

For years, traffickers fueled the slaughter of gorillas and chimpanzees in Cameroon’s rainforests to meet demand for bush meat – an activity conservationists feared could wipe out the great apes in the wild in a few decades.

But now they fear a far worse scenario is taking place.

A previously unknown trade in ape heads, bones and limbs – rather than full bodies for meat – is encouraging poachers to kill more animals than previously done, and wildlife law enforcement officials say it is speeding up population decline.

“We may be looking at something that is developing down the road of ivory trafficking,” said Eric Kaba Tah, deputy director of the Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA), a non-profit wildlife law enforcement body based in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde.

“Gorillas and chimpanzees were hunted mainly for bush meat. The babies were captured and sold as pets. Heads and limbs were cut off and left behind because they resemble human parts,” Tah told Al Jazeera.

However, a new picture has now emerged.

“What we are seeing increasingly is that poachers are recovering the heads and limbs of chimps and gorillas and leaving the bodies behind to rot,” said Tah.

“Limbs and heads fetch more money and if they think the body is going to be a burden to remove from the forest, they simply abandon it and bring out only the high-value products.”

Anti-poaching campaigners fear this trend will increase pressure on the already dwindling population of gorillas and chimpanzees, and are warning the great apes could disappear “in our lifetime”.

“Body parts are easier to conceal and transport. Because of this, poachers will be tempted to kill more animals than they already do,” Tah said.

The exact number gorillas and chimpanzees roaming Cameroon’s forests is difficult to estimate because researchers have conducted few studies. But wildlife officials say there are only a few hundred per species. One estimate puts the number of Cross River gorillas in the wild at less than 300.

In the past four months alone, game rangers and security forces have arrested some 22 ape traffickers with a total booty of 34 chimp skulls and fresh heads, 24 gorilla skulls and heads, and 16 ape limbs, according to LAGA. Others have been arrested with jaw bones and other parts.

“If the situation continues, great apes may no longer be around in 10 to 15 years,” Tah said.

It is still unclear what is driving the demand for ape parts. However, wildlife officials and anti-poaching campaigners say they have found a connection between the illegal trade and Nigerian communities inside Cameroon and across the border.

“We think ape products are being used for mystical practices,” said an official at the ministry of forestry and wildlife, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.


Officials say trade in ape heads and limbs is driven by demand from Nigeria (Photo: Eugene Nforngwa/Al Jazeera)

Trade in ape parts is not entirely new, though it is only recently that law enforcement agents have uncovered “sophisticated and well-organized” trafficking of ape skulls, heads, limbs and bones.

“The more we crackdown, the more we see things that were unknown to law enforcement officials,” said Tah, whose organization has been helping the government of Cameroon to fight wildlife crime for the past 10 years.

“We decided to focus on the trade in ape parts this year, and as a result we uncovered the magnitude of an old phenomenon,” said Ofir Drori, founding director of Eco-Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement.

“If we had done this in Congo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa Republic or [any] other country, I am sure we would get the same result. The work in the last months in Cameroon has shown how organized and socialized the ape trade is, and exposed a worrying magnitude,” Drori told Al Jazeera.

Traffickers were mainly small-time poachers and dealers, police official Julius Anutemet said. But over the years, they have become skilled, well-funded and organized. Networks now run across the border to big cities in neighbouring Nigeria and a few powerful people could be involved.

“These are professional traffickers, people who live entirely off the trafficking they do,” said Anutemet, who has hunted wildlife traffickers since 2003 and made about 580 arrests.

“They have people who supply them with cash and ammunition. They know where the checkpoints are; what roads to take in the forest to avoid being caught. They have men [advising] them about the position of the police and forest guards.”

Traffickers are now arrested on a weekly basis. Yet, the crime goes on.

“Our objective is to get the big dealers,” Tah said. “When you cut off the head, the body dies. The more you get people up the chain the more successful you are.”

Catching people up the chain is often easier said than done, Tah admitted. Widespread corruption means the powerful men behind the crimes are never caught, or get away with “ridiculous fines”.


Wildlife traffickers arrested with ape skulls during a crackdown in Cameroon (Photo: Eugene Nforngwa/Al Jazeera)

“When you see some court decisions, you are forced to ask if there are other reasons other than legal considerations,” Tah said.

The penalty for illegal poaching and trade in protected wildlife is one to three years imprisonment, or a combination of jail time and a fine of up to US$20,000. But anti-poaching campaigners say arrested traffickers often walk away with less than the minimum punishment.

“Wildlife crimes are still not viewed as serious crimes in Cameroon, even by officials involved in fighting the crime at the level of the state,” Tah said. “Officials arrest and release people on grounds that are not very clear. We have arrested people who had been arrested in the past but let go.”

LAGA estimates that corruption is a factor in about 80 percent of the legal cases the organization has helped to build.

“The illegal trade in apes is rooted in corruption and complicity,” said Drori. “These are the real enemies we fight. What drives the extinction of our closest relatives is greed.”

“Enforcement has to be stepped up with only one target in mind – [the] number of traffickers put behind bars. The law must be enforced – or we lose these magnificent creatures forever in our lifetime.”

Read the original article here.

Live chimp rescued in Guinea

10565051_570704729742941_5508797749207500548_nTwo traffickers were arrested trying to sell a baby chimpanzee in Conakry, Guinea, but to whom and for what purpose remains a mystery. PEGAS has tried to learn the purpose of the chimpanzee capture from the wild in the Fouta region from the NGO involved, GALF (Guinée Application de la Loi Faunique), but was told only that it was not intended for international trade. Is there demand for baby chimpanzees in Conakry? We would certainly like to know more about that.

On its WARA Facebook page, GALF issued the following statement (translated from French):

“Following a tip-off by Guinea’s Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC), two men were arrested as they tried to market a chimpanzee in the capital, Conakry, on December 20. The sting operation was a joint effort of INTERPOL, Guinea’s Environment Ministry and GALF, the Guinean chapter of the Last Great Apes organization (LAGA). According to GALF, the men are part of a network that sources chimpanzees in the Fouta region. One of them is reported to be employed in chimpanzee conservation activities. The chimpanzee was confiscated and will be placed in the CCC’s sanctuary. The two men are being held in detention pending a hearing on December 22.” carried this report by Mady Bangoura on the arrests (translated from French):

Two alleged chimpanzee traffickers arrested in Conakry

(Conakry, Dec 20) The fight against commercializing wild animals advances well. The battle to protect animals thought to be potential reservoirs of deadly viruses, started a year ago by the authorities, seems to be gaining momentum in the field. After the Kindia and Labé case, two more presumed chimpanzee traffickers were arrested at Kaporo, in the Ratoma Commune of the Conakry suburbs.

During questioning, the accused buyer, Mamadou Moussa Barry, stated that he bought the animal from a friend with the intention of keeping it for himself.

However, attracted by the profit that the chimp’s sale could generate, Dinos Doré, who has served for a long time in conservation projects of animal species threatened by extinction, decided to act as a middleman between the owner and an eventual buyer of the merchandise.

The two were arrested Friday, December 19 as they tried to sell the animal. They are being held at the central Judiciary Police station for questioning before being transferred to the Dixinn court for arraignment. If convicted, they could face three to six months of imprisonment. The baby chimpanzee has been placed with the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre at Faranah where we’re told he will return to the wild.

Guinean law, as well as international conventions that Guinea is party to, classifies the chimpanzee as a totally protected animal species. Detention and commercial trade of such animals without prior authorization from the competent authorities is strictly prohibited.

Read the original article here.

Freedom a step closer: Argentina gives orangutan human rights


Sandra pictured at the Buenos Aires Zoo. Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

In a landmark court decision, an Argentine court has recognized that an orangutan unlawfully imprisoned in a Buenos Aires zoo is a “non-human person” and thus entitled to habeas corpus rights. Argentina has shown itself to be more enlightened than the United States in recognizing the principle that all members of the biological family Hominidae should enjoy basic hominid rights.

The Guardian reports:

An orangutan held in an Argentinian zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition – a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person’s detention or imprisonment – in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo.

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.

The court agreed Sandra, born into captivity in Germany before being transferred to Argentina two decades ago, deserved the basic rights of a “non-human person”.

“This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories,” the daily La Nacion newspaper quoted Afada lawyer Paul Buompadre as saying.

Sandra’s case is not the first time activists have sought to use the habeas corpus writ to secure the release of wild animals from captivity.

A US court this month tossed out a similar bid for the freedom of Tommy the chimpanzee, privately owned in New York state, ruling the chimp was not a “person” entitled to the rights and protections afforded by habeas corpus.

In 2011, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) filed a lawsuit against marine park operator Sea World, alleging five wild-captured orca whales were treated like slaves. A San Diego court dismissed the case.

Orangutan is a word from the Malay and Indonesian languages that means “forest man”.

The Buenos Aires zoo has 10 working days to seek an appeal.

A spokesman for the zoo declined to comment to Reuters. The zoo’s head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, told La Nacion that orangutans were by nature calm, solitary animals which come together only to mate and care for their young.

“When you don’t know the biology of a species, to unjustifiably claim it suffers abuse, is stressed or depressed, is to make one of man’s most common mistakes, which is to humanize animal behaviour,” Sestelo said.

Read the original article here.

China drafting better animal laws


A tiger performs at Chongqing Safari Park in China. China Photos/Getty Images

If this legislation goes through, it could signal a major shift in great ape trafficking to China, saving hundreds of chimpanzee and orangutan lives in the next decade alone.

Bloomberg reports:

It’s getting a little easier to be an animal in China. The country’s fledgling animal-rights movement this week received a double boost, with an animal-welfare law in the works and a prominent zoo taking action to stop animal performances.

On Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Global Times, the tabloid affiliated with the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, reported that that the National People’s Congress is moving ahead on a plan to pass landmark legislation to protect animals, both in the wild and in captivity. Lawmakers have just completed a draft of the proposal, Chang Jiwen, vice director of the Research Institute of Resources and Environment Policies under the Development Research Center of the State Council, told the newspaper.

There’s still a long way to go before the proposal becomes law: China’s parliament isn’t likely to take up the amendment until late in 2015. But given China’s track record, we should take progress wherever we can get it. Or, as the Global Times reported, “Shi Kun, director of the Wildlife Institute at Beijing Forestry University, told the Global Times that China has long been criticized for not treating wild animals humanely, but with legal recognition of animal welfare, the country should be able to make progress on curbing phenomenon like overtime performance by zoo animals and harsh living conditions for wildlife on farms.”

Chinese zoo animals need the help. The country has about 180 zoos, and almost all of them feature performances by animals, according to the Animals Asia Foundation, an NGO that has been lobbying Chinese zoos to stop the practice. There are also about 50 safari parks that include animal performances, said Dave Neale, animal welfare director at Animals Asia. “They have black bears riding bicycles, macaques on bicycles, tigers doing circus tricks,” he said. “A lot of the big cats—the tigers and the lions—have had their teeth removed.”

In the spring, the Beijing zoo joined the foundation’s campaign against animal performances. Now the zoo in Hangzhou—the eastern Chinese city that is home to e-commerce company Alibaba (BABA)—has said it will stop animal performances after lobbying by the Animals Asia Foundation, the NGO announced on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA), which represents zoos worldwide, can’t be much help in China. The group includes two Taiwanese zoos, as well as a Hong Kong marine park and zoo, but no zoos from the mainland belong to WAZA. “That may change over time,” said Neale. “A lot of the individual zoos [in China] are interested in becoming members.

Read the original article here.

What do elephants going to China have to do with great ape trafficking?

(CITES has issued a response to the widely reported Zimbabwe elephant capture-for-export story. An update discussing their response can be found below this post.)

A story broke a few days ago reporting that more than 30 baby elephants had been captured from their mothers in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, destined for China. A subsequent story reported that a Zimbabwean government spokesperson stated that the elephants were bound for the United Arab Emirates, which was confirmed by the UAE; they aim to import seven elephants for an unnamed facility. But PEGAS has obtained reliable information that a zoo in Guangzhou, China, intends to import 50 elephants from Zimbabwe. In preparation, the government hired a conservation consulting firm to prepare a study entitled “Guidelines for Translocation of African Elephants”. The study recommended that no wild, young elephants be transported, but those concerned should monitor the situation closely to see what actually happens.

1China Jan2013 Sunday Express

A baby elephant caged up awaiting shipment to China. (Photo courtesy of Sunday Express)

This is a repeat on a larger scale of a story that broke in early 2013 about baby elephants going to China. A few elephants actually were shipped, arriving in November 2012, where one died soon after arrival at the Taiyuan Zoo in freezing weather. The CITES Trade Database reports that eight live elephants were imported by China from Zimbabwe that year. Further shipments were temporarily stopped after campaigns were launched by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and Born Free-UK.

Since 2000, the CITES Trade Database indicates that China has imported 54 live African elephants, most of them from South Africa and Tanzania, so this practice is nothing new. PEGAS conducted an extensive Google search, and could only find mention of three African elephants in China, two females at the Nanning Zoo and one male at Beijing Zoo. Either all those imported died, or they are only written about in Chinese, or not at all.

2Nanning Zoo ele

A female African elephant at Nanning Zoo in 2013. (Photo courtesy of China Daily)

3China elephant permit

(Click to enlarge) A Chinese translation of an English-language CITES trade permit indicating that the Shanghai Wild Animal Park imported 4 elephants from Tanzania.

The relevance this case has for great apes is that African elephants and apes are sent to the same facilities in China using similar abuses of the CITES trade permit system. In 2011 China imported 7 elephants from Tanzania, according to the CITES Trade Database. PEGAS has obtained a copy of a Chinese translation of the CITES export permit used to send 4 elephants from Tanzania to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park (see picture at left). The date of the permit is September 2010, and since permits have a six-month period of validity these four may have made up part of the 7 reported in 2011.

4China chimp permit

(Click to enlarge) A copy of a CITES trade permit for 8 chimpanzees sent from Guinea to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.

In the same month, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park was also indicated on a CITES trade permit as the destination for 8 chimpanzees exported by Guinea (see picture at right). Note on both permits the two boxes next to each other containing a C and a Z. The C source code signifies that the animals were at least second generation bred in captivity and that the purpose Z is a zoo. The Guinea permits are known to be fraudulent, as it has no breeding facilities of any kind, and CITES sanctioned the country in 2013 with a commercial trade ban. China was cleared of any wrongdoing by CITES, a gross miscarriage of justice in the eyes of many observers (see The Story of the Shanghai Eight for details).

The CITES Trade Database does not report any elephants imported by China with a C source code. However, an Appendix I specimen with a C source code is treated as an Appendix II specimen by CITES regulations, which requires no import permit. The Chinese language permit above, therefore, is probably a translation of the Tanzanian export permit. In any case, Tanzania has no breeding facility for elephants, so the permit is fraudulent in the same way that the Guinea chimpanzee permits were. CITES should investigate to establish the truth of the matter.

The Shanghai Wild Animal Park is not a zoo as defined by any credible zoo association such as the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) or the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and in fact is not accredited by any zoo association. The facility is a commercial amusement park that trains the animals for use in circus performances.

5SWAP-Nature University

A chimpanzee infant performs as a “bull” in an animal show at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park. Is this an educational zoo activity? (Photo courtesy of Nature University)

This is possibly what awaits the elephants from Zimbabwe destined for Guangzhou, which has two enormous safari park type “zoos”, the Chimelong complex and the Guangzhou Zoo. Both of these parks use great apes in commercial performances in contravention of CITES regulations, but CITES has taken no action on the practice.

Zimbabwe and China must be compelled to disclose transparently the details of where the elephants are destined and for what purpose they are intended. They should also make public the CITES import and export permits – we already know that the elephants were not bred in captivity, and they were stolen from their mothers. Appendix I African elephants captured from the wild cannot be used for commercial purposes. Common sense would indicate that a multi-million dollar deal involving 50 elephants could be nothing else but commercial.

Will the CITES Secretariat guide appropriate action, or will it maintain its usual pose when China is involved?


In the issue of illegal imports of chimpanzees to China, the CITES Secretariat has seen, heard or spoken no evil concerning the country. Will it be the same for African elephants?









Update: The CITES Secretariat makes a statement on the Zimbabwe elephant case (December 20, 2014)

The CITES Secretariat has issued a statement  that clarifies some aspects of the news reports that baby elephants have been captured in Zimbabwe for export to the UAE and/or China, but adds a new element that contributes to the muddle. It appears that Zimbabwe is perfectly within its legal rights to export live elephants, as elephants in the country are listed in Appendix II, which allows restricted trade. As long as the elephants are transported humanely in accordance with the Live Animals Regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and they are traded to “appropriate and acceptable destinations”, the trade is allowable. “Appropriate and acceptable destinations” is defined in Resolution Conf. 11.20 of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Much of this information was released in 2013 when the 2012 elephant exports from Zimbabwe to China came to light.

The new muddle is that the UAE claims that it is importing “seven elephants as a family group that has been in captivity in Zimbabwe for more than 10 years.” So where does this leave the captured babies allegedly held in a stockade in Hwange National Park? Could they still be destined for China? News reports have linked Hank Jenkins, an Australian, with the elephant exports to China. PEGAS has obtained personal email correspondence from Jenkins stating that he is not involved with the current elephant captures. The press reports were also inaccurate in describing Jenkins as “a former top official from Cites”. The CITES Secretariat stated that “He was never an official of the CITES Secretariat and has no association with the Secretariat.” It seems that we cannot believe everything we read in the press. Jenkins’ disassociation with the current elephant brouhaha, however, does not mean that he will not be involved in future elephant exports from Zimbabwe to China.

For those (like PEGAS) who believe that wild animals should not be put in captivity for use to entertain humans, the only legal recourse to stop the exports would be to demonstrate that they were not headed to “appropriate and acceptable destinations”. (The transport angle would only be temporary.) That is difficult to do without knowing the destination. CITES defines the term “to mean destinations where the Scientific Authority of the State of import is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it.” The Secretariat described it as a “private park”. That eliminates public zoos, but there are many private parks and zoos in oil-rich UAE. The purchaser should allow an independent inspection of the facility to verify that it is appropriate for seven African elephants, and to pledge that they will not be used for commercial purposes. Investigations should also be carried out to verify that the seven elephants have indeed been in captivity for ten years.

To return to great apes, there are no Appendix II apes in Africa. Any export of them currently (or in the recent past) would be illegal. PEGAS saw great apes in captivity in a recent visit to the UAE, and media stories have reported them in private collections. We will continue investigations as to how they got there, resources allowing. If any are demonstrated to be the result of illegal trade, PEGAS will campaign to have them confiscated and repatriated to their country of origin or, if unknown, to an appropriate facility such as a sanctuary.

Veterinarians for Animal Welfare in Zimbabwe have clarified the mystery of the captured baby elephants by stating that 27 of them are bound for China. So now we have come full circle from China to UAE and back to China as the destination. Director for Conservation at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authorities, Geoffreys Matipano, said in a December 18 interview at Hwange:

“We are pursuing it [the export] aggressively as part of conservation efforts because we have plenty of elephants here. We don’t receive state funding and we rely on selling animals for our day to day operations, we are nowhere near what we want.”

It would appear that eight more elephants, in addition to the seven announced, will go to the UAE, and France intends to buy and import 15 to 20. PEGAS believes that at least 20 more than the 27 babies will be bound for China. Stay tuned…

Visit to Dubai

PEGAS made a brief two-day visit to Dubai on November 27-28 to meet with journalist Vesela Todorova, who has written several articles on wildlife trade in the United Arab Emirates, and Dr. Ullrich Wernery, Scientific Director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in the UAE (see Dark side of UAE’s exotic animal fascination). Dr. Corina Berners, a taxidermist at the laboratory, also attended the meeting.


Dr. Ulli Wernery, director of the CVRL in the UAE. (photo by Lee Hoagland of The National)

PEGAS requested a meeting with Dr. Elsayed Mohamed, head of IFAW’s Middle East office, but after several rounds of emails with their campaigns officer was told that IFAW did not know anything about great apes, but that “…we welcome questions related to trade in big cats, birds and ivory.”

The UAE has long been known for its position both as destination and transit point for wild animal trade. Many wealthy Emiratis keep private menageries and there are several zoos and animal parks in the country.  PEGAS wanted to find out if great apes were in demand in the UAE for these facilities.


At least one wealthy Emirati has a siamang (gibbon), as this recent photo of Paris Hilton in Dubai shows. (courtesy The Daily Mail)

In the many years that the two veterinarians have been treating and performing post-mortems on dead wild animal pets, they have yet to see a great ape. While conducting her wildlife trade journalistic investigations, Todorova had not encountered great ape trafficking. They had all heard of great ape pets, but think that the number of cases is quite small. Dr. Berners knew a woman who had recently received an orangutan as a pet and tried to arrange an appointment for PEGAS to meet her, but the woman declined the invitation. From press and media accounts that PEGAS has seen, orangutans appear to be the ape of choice for Emiratis.

The private zoos are very difficult to visit, unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire or celebrity. What goes on behind high walls is unknown to the average person, except for the veterinarians and keepers who look after the animals.

PEGAS also visited the Dubai Zoo, which held a pair of eastern lowland Grauer’s gorillas (named Digit and Diana) and three chimpanzees in two cages. One empty cage had a plaque indicating it should contain a chimpanzee, but it was empty.

4Dubai Grauer2

(Above and below) This gorilla does not appear too happy to be locked up. (photos: Dan Stiles)

3Dubai Grauer1

While PEGAS was in Dubai, the Sharjah government announced that exotic pet owners had 30 days in which to surrender their illegally imported exotic animals. (Sharjah is one of seven emirates comprising the UAE.) However, public and private zoos, scientific and research centres and universities which obtained licences from the Environment and Natural Reserves Agency in Sharjah are exempted. It is unclear whether this will apply to other parts of the UAE.

5Dubai chimp

Grin and bear it, this chimpanzee in Dubai Zoo seems to be saying.

PEGAS plans to return to the UAE to conduct follow-up work in 2015.

Developments in Egypt: signs of hope

Egypt has long been a major problem country of great ape trafficking (see Africa’s Lost Apes). Chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have over the years mysteriously turned up at the National Circus, various public zoos, private safari parks and tourist hotel wildlife facilities. Not a single import has been reported to the CITES Trade Database, indicating that all of the imports have been illegal. The CITES Secretariat has felt compelled to make two visits to Egypt (2007 and 2010) to look into charges of improper imports of great apes. They found many irregularities and recommended that several remedial measures be carried out.

1 Dina

Dina Zulficar spends her lunch hour every day feeding Cairo street cats and dogs, such is her dedication to improving the lives of animals (photo: Dan Stiles)

The PEGAS Project Manager visited Egypt on November 13-26 to ascertain the current status of the number and location of great apes in the country and to assess the possibility of rescuing and relocating any of them to their home countries or to a suitable sanctuary closer to home. PEGAS was greatly assisted by Dina Zulficar, one of Egypt’s leading animal rights activists, who has a history of driving change and advancing animal welfare and protection that spans decades.

PEGAS and Dina Zulficar met with senior officials of the Egyptian Environment Affairs Agency, Dr. Khaled Allam, General Manager of Biodiversity, and Dr. Ayman Hamada, Director-General of Species Diversity, in the Ministry of State for Environment. After discussion, we agreed that a short-term holding facility would be created on Ministry of Environment property near the Cairo airport for great apes confiscated in future trafficking incidents. PEGAS would assist in providing both the design plans and funding for this facility. CITES-Egypt would need to agree to its operation and Environment said that they would attempt to establish a Memorandum of Understanding with CITES-Egypt, which would include a step-by-step protocol of procedures to follow in the case of an illegal trade great ape seizure.

PEGAS tried for over two weeks to obtain a meeting with CITES-Egypt officials, but they refused to grant an appointment. The Egypt CITES Management Authority has a long history of lack of cooperation and transparency with international organizations and NGOs interested in controlling illegal wildlife trade and promoting conservation.

PEGAS visited or obtained information about several facilities known in the past to have held great apes to assess the current status on numbers. These were:

The Tower Hotel Country Club

Reports by Karl Ammann/Pax Animalis and PASA have pointed to the Tower Hotel and its associated animal breeding centre, owned by businessman Gamal Omar, as a hotspot of illegal great ape trading. The Hotel used to display chimpanzees, but this has ceased, and the apes are kept out of public view now in the breeding centre located near the hotel. Gorillas and chimpanzees have been circulating through these Sharm el-Sheikh facilities since the 1990s, fed initially by an infamous dual nationality Egyptian-Nigerian trafficker named Heba Saad.


There were purportedly four gorillas at Tower Hotel in 2009 (photo courtesy of PASA)

The first actual count, reported by PASA in 2009, stated that there were four gorillas and six chimpanzees at Tower, but this number was provided by CITES-Egypt and could not be verified by visual inspection. Ammann/Pax Animalis reported a visual inspection count made by Claudia Schoene in January 2012 of five gorillas and 11 chimpanzees, with a minimum of two females and three too young to breed.

3. Tower buy

Addax being transported from the Tower Hotel breeding centre. (photo: Dan Stiles)

4. Tower list

(Click to enlarge) The Tower Hotel permit list indicates that in early 2014 there were 17 chimpanzees and 5 gorillas in the breeding centre. Now there are 25. (photo courtesy of Dina Zulficar)

PEGAS visited the breeding centre and witnessed a transaction in which addax were sold and packed into a transport crate, but the great apes were intentionally kept from view (despite an earlier promise that they could be visited). PEGAS did however receive numbers from three sources, including the veterinarian at Tower, that in November 2014 there were five gorillas and 25 chimpanzees (8 newborns and other youngsters). Their 2014 permit to hold animals indicates that in early 2014 there were 17 chimpanzees in residence. The November 2014 numbers indicate that chimpanzees have been added that have not been bred at Tower. The 2014 CITES Trade Database won’t be published for several months, but it is unlikely any legally imported chimpanzees will be reported for Egypt, so it appears that in spite of severe criticisms by CITES and others, great ape trafficking is continuing.

The Hauza Hotel and Breeding Farm

The Hauza Hotel, also in Sharm el-Sheikh, operated very much like the Tower Hotel in that chimpanzees were kept on public display and the owner, Ashraf Enab, retains an animal breeding farm, which is located off the road connecting Cairo with Alexandria. The first count was again reported in the 2009 PASA report as provided by CITES-Egypt, which stated that chimpanzees were no longer kept at the hotel and that five were at the breeding farm, but this could not be verified. In earlier years, Karl Ammann and associates had seen and digitally recorded several chimpanzees, which appeared to be changing inconsistently in age over time, suggesting that some were leaving and others arriving.

5. Hauza

The Hauza Hotel no longer keeps great apes on the premises. (photo: Dan Stiles)

PEGAS visited the hotel and spent a great deal of time with the owner, who shared a considerable amount of information, which will be conveyed in a subsequent report. Concerning numbers, Mr. Enab reported that he started in 2006 with CITES-Egypt asking him to keep first two and then another four seized chimpanzees at the hotel zoo. He later moved them to the breeding farm (2009?). Two offspring have been born, so there are now eight at the breeding farm, with none at the hotel.

6. Enab

The new safari park under construction near Sharm el-Sheikh that is planned to hold hundreds of animals of wild species, including chimpanzees. (photo: Dan Stiles)

Ashraf Enab is building a new safari park in Sharm el-Sheikh that eventually will host 800 animals, including four chimpanzees, lions, cheetahs, giraffes and many more transferred from the breeding farm.


African Safari Park

This drive-through facility is located off the Cairo-Alexandria road about 165 km from Cairo and currently costs 400 Egyptian pounds (US$57) to enter. Chimpanzees have also been coming and going from it over the years, but the only count was provided by PASA in 2009, which viewed a total of seven. PEGAS visited the safari park in November and saw two adult chimpanzees on a rock island, which appear to have been there for many years based on earlier accounts, and a single adult on another island. The two chimpanzees, unfortunately, seem to have an “Odd Couple” sort of relationship and fastidiously avoid each other. Apparently five or six others were on the second island in 2008/2009, but progressively they fell (or were pushed) off the island and drowned (sources: personal communication, Dina Zulficar and an anonymous informant who worked there).

7. ASP

(Above and below) The three chimpanzees currently on display at the African Safari Park. (photos: Dan Stiles)

8. ASP

The chimpanzees are kept on these tiny islands year-round with temperatures ranging from 9 C (57 F) to 45 C (113 F), with no enrichment provisions, which clearly qualifies as mistreatment.

Giza Zoo

Great apes have been moving in and out of Giza Zoo on a regular basis over the years and it appears that it serves as a holding station for CITES-Egypt, which is headquartered at the zoo, to enable it to temporarily keep illegally traded apes, and then distribute them to “rescue centres” such as the Tower, Hauza and African Safari Park operations. The same scheme is used to import and distribute other species.

9. Giza Zoo

The Giza Zoo map with the location of the chimpanzee cages on the left and the orangutan cage on the right (circled in red). (photo: Dan Stiles)

For example, PASA saw three infant chimpanzees in the Giza Zoo in March 2009 that supposedly were “confiscated”, but there were no documents associated with it, nor were the confiscations reported to the CITES Trade Database, as required by CITES Parties. A month later, Ian Redmond of Ape Alliance visited the Giza Zoo and found only two infants. One infant had already been removed. Also, when an ape is no longer of use to a private facility because of age or poor health, it is sent to the Giza Zoo. An example of this is the case of Moza, a female transferred from Tower to the zoo because she has a recurrent tumor.

10. Giza

Two adult chimpanzees at Giza Zoo. Note the two right hands, one of them thought to belong to Moza, who must have been lying on the ground. (photo: Dan Stiles)

PASA observed eight chimpanzees at the Giza Zoo in March 2009, while Ian Redmond counted seven in total a month later. PEGAS saw five chimpanzees in two cages and two orangutans in another location. Dina Zulficar indicated that there are seven chimpanzees in total at the zoo, which if so means that two were hidden from view inside the sleeping chamber. There was an empty cage in the chimpanzee cage cluster no doubt awaiting the next illegal import.

Other facilities

In the past other facilities, such as the Alexandria Zoo, the Al-Arish Zoo, the National Circus, about 20 other smaller circuses, and pet shops in Cairo are all reported to have held or sold great apes, but none do today, according to Dina Zulficar, Ashraf Enab and an anonymous informant.

Rescue and relocation

First, it is imperative that the Ministry of State for the Environment be successful in establishing a holding facility to receive all future great ape confiscations. The system that currently exists involving placement of illegal ape imports in the Giza Zoo, from where they are passed on to private “rescue centres”, must be broken up. More will be said on this topic in a subsequent report.

Second, an initiative is underway by PEGAS, working with a private wildlife breeder and dealer, and government officials, to free and relocate to sub-Saharan Africa the chimpanzees held by the Tower Hotel breeding centre. More will be said on this as negotiations proceed.

DRC trip report: building alliances

The PEGAS Project Manager visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on October 12-24, accompanied for the first three days by Jef Dupain, Director of the AWF African Apes Initiative. Jef introduced the Project Manager to the president of Juristrale, a local Congolese NGO that is collaborating with PEGAS in the area of great ape trafficking investigations. Aided by a Juristrale assistant, valuable information was gathered about the source areas of great apes that are trafficked in Kinshasa (the capital of DRC), the trade routes and transport methods (see maps at the bottom of this post), the people involved and sample prices of the different species.

Wildlife dealer

Trafficking location on a main road, where middlemen dealers are protected by soldiers (circled in blue). Monkeys for sale are circled in red.

Accompanied by Jef Dupain, PEGAS also met with Cosma Wilungula, the Director General of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation), which manages DRC’s protected areas and serves as the CITES Scientific Authority. The Project Manager briefed the DG on the objectives of the PEGAS project and received assurances of full cooperation from ICCN. The DG stated that he was committed to ending the trafficking of great apes and the illicit use of fraudulent CITES export permits.

Boma, a bonobo rescued in 2013

Boma, a bonobo rescued in 2013 and now living at Lola ya Bonobo

A visit was also made to Lola ya Bonobo where Fanny Minesi, daughter of Lola founder Claudine André, gave the Project Manager a guided tour of the bonobo sanctuary. Lola stands ready to provide long-term care for any bonobos that can be rescued from captive slavery.

The mission to DRC has resulted in a number of follow-up actions that will be announced in future posts.

Lola ya Bonobo's Fanny Minesi, pictured with Dr. Dan Stiles of PEGAS.

Lola ya Bonobo’s Fanny Minesi, pictured with Dr. Dan Stiles of PEGAS.

Map 1: Dealers indicated that the two main sources for great apes were the Mayombe Forest in the west and Equateur Province to the northeast, with Mdandaka being the staging point for shipment down the Congo River

Map 1: Dealers indicated that the two main sources for great apes were the Mayombe Forest in the west and Equateur Province to the northeast, with Mdandaka being the staging point for shipment down the Congo River

Map 2: The apes are offloaded at Maluku before transport to Kinshasa

Map 2: The apes are offloaded at Maluku before transport to Kinshasa

AWF’s Dupain testifies in Washington, calls for Great Ape Working Group

At a meeting of the US Presidential Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking at the US Department of the Interior, African Wildlife Foundation’s (AWF’s) Director of the African Apes Initiative, Jef Dupain, testified before council members and the general public on the growing threat of great ape trafficking and the impact this illicit industry poses to wild populations of bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa.

The testimony came as the President’s Advisory Council met to draw attention to species – other than elephants and rhinos – impacted by the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.

“Ape trafficking is growing as demand abroad for exotic pets and zoo and entertainment animals grows,” said Mr. Dupain. “The nightmare for many of these victims does not end with their capture in the wild but instead – if they don’t die in transit – continues for the rest of their life, sometimes 40 years.”

AWF made several recommendations to the Advisory Council about the role the US government could and should play to combat the illegal trade in great apes, including: “Urge CITES at the next Standing Committee meeting to establish a Great Ape Working Group, which will permit more detailed discussion around CITES regulatory processes and how to make it more effective at controlling fraudulent use of CITES permits.”

“It is time the trade in great apes is exposed and closed,” Dupain said.

The PEGAS Project Manager assisted in the preparation of the AWF testimony.

Congo-Brazzaville trip report: conference and sanctuary visit

The PEGAS Project manager attended the 14th Anchor Conference of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), held in Brazzaville, Congo on October 6-10. The purpose was twofold: to meet people and organizations that could be useful to the PEGAS objectives; and to visit the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre, managed by the Jane Goodall Institute, to discuss great ape trafficking, assess the facility as a possible site for relocation of confiscated chimpanzees and learn about sanctuary operations.

Oct12_1The conference was largely a talking shop with many complicated, theoretical presentations of little relevance to what is actually happening on the ground in Central African forests. No one seemed to think it odd that not a single Asian government, NGO or private sector entity was a partner in the CBFP, nor were any Asians amongst the participants (except for one Japanese). Since Asian extractive industries (mining, logging, oil and gas) are causing devastating damage to Central African biodiversity, it calls into question the whole purpose of the CBFP. See Flying under the radar for a case study involving Chinese extractive industries in great ape habitats.

The CBFP, whose objectives include conserving forest habitats and biodiversity, while maintaining an important carbon reservoir, apparently forgot to include any partners from Asia. Asian extractive industries operate largely outside initiatives aimed at conserving biodiversity.

The visit to Tchimpounga was a delightful experience. Rebeca Atencia, the manager, and her husband Fernando Turmo, shared a wealth of information on the admirable work that they and staff are carrying out there. The centre’s 166 chimpanzees and about 20 mandrills are receiving the highest standard of care. Of particular interest are plans and preparations to begin a program of release into the wild of Tchimpounga chimpanzees. Three islands in the Kouilou River, which offer ideal forest habitat, are receiving chimpanzees that will undergo pre-release training to teach them how live off wild resources. Once they are Oct12_3ready, they will be released in groups in an area already selected in the nearby Conkuati National Park. Tchimpounga is also carrying out an effective campaign of creating awareness amongst the public aimed at reducing great ape hunting, bushmeat trade and the trafficking of orphans.


Partnering with African Wildlife Foundation

PEGAS and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) have agreed to a collaborative working relationship to cooperate in fighting great ape trafficking. The PEGAS Project Manager met in August with AWF’s Philip Muruthi, Chief Scientist, Landscape Conservation Programs, and Jef Dupain, Director, AWF African Apes Initiative, at AWF’s office in Nanyuki, Kenya. We agreed to collaborate in three main areas:

  • Great Apes Working Group in CITES
  • Initiating great ape repatriation procedures in illegal trade import countries
  • Ascertaining great ape trafficking networks and trade routes in Central Africa

Aug25_1          Aug25_2

The continuing fight to put great apes on the CITES agenda

The PEGAS Project Manager attended the 65th CITES Standing Committee meeting held in Geneva on July 7-11, representing Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The CITES Standing Committee “…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.” The Standing July12_newCommittee also initiates action to suspend trade as a sanction against Parties (ie. countries) that egregiously break the rules.

This was a particularly important Standing Committee meeting as there were several significant agenda items concerning various species and issues. Over 400 participants attended, the largest in history. As usual, most of the discussion was devoted to elephants, rhinos and big cats, with pangolins making a breakthrough as a big issue as well. Great apes languished in obscurity, as usual, although several NGOs and UNEP tried to bring more discussion to the floor.

The CITES Secretariat, ably assisted by the Standing Committee chairman Øystein Størkersen, managed to prevent the requested formation of a Great Apes Working Group. Only through a working group could the evidence related to great ape trafficking be adequately examined and remedies proposed. The Secretariat continues to try to minimize the issue and thus avoid taking action. See Why are great apes treated like second-class species by CITES? and a PEGAS report addressing the issue for more details.

The PEGAS Project Manager met and networked with many representatives of governments, the UN and NGOs, but attendance was principally a learning experience in how best to plan strategies to get something effective achieved in future with CITES for great apes. Plans are accordingly in the works for the 66th CITES Standing Committee meeting to be held in January 2016, followed by the crucial 17th CITES Conference of the Parties to be held later that year in South Africa.

PEGAS holds media briefing on ape slavery


Mwanzo and her baby Angela at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary

PEGAS hosted a media event at Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Several journalists attended and were briefed on the trafficking crisis facing great apes and the objectives of PEGAS to put an end to it. Here are two of the articles the media event produced: “Slavery” driving apes to extinction, conservationists say and The story of the traffic in Africa’s great apes.