Tag Archives: CITES

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:

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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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(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.

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.

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

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(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.

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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?

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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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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(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.

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.