Tag Archives: PEGAS

PEGAS attends CITES 66th Standing Committee meeting

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

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The 66th CITES Standing Committee meeting had over 400 participants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Online trafficking in the Middle East is out of control

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

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

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

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

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

So what happens now?

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

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

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

PEGAS rescues two chimpanzee orphans in Liberia – Part I

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

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jackson before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

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

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

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Part II to come

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.

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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.

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(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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.