Problem in Guinea

In recent years demand for live chimpanzees in zoos has increased the number of chimps exported overseas.  As many countries in West and Central Africa do not have effective policies for preventing wildlife trafficking, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have become the target of animal traffickers in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Senegal.  A live chimpanzee infant is worth $5,000-20,000 from zoos in North America, Europe and Asia.

Over the past 3 years it is estimated that over 130 chimpanzees have been smuggled from Guinea by Chinese miners to Chinese zoos. The Chinese are bringing their own labourers into remote areas and wildlife trafficking has become a lucrative illegal trade. Law enforcement for wildlife is non-existent in Guinea. It’s likely that permits have been falsified or stolen for shipments to pass through.

As China’s industrial presence throughout Africa expands, these trafficking incidents may grow, as has the slaughter of elephants and rhinos for their ivory and horns, also fueled by demand from newly prosperous Chinese consumers. At the moment, chimpanzees are being caught in crates and shipped overseas while corrupt and/or incompetent officials turn a blind eye. If the status quo is maintained chimpanzee trafficking to zoos throughout the developed and developing world will continue to rise.

For every infant chimp captured, several group members–it is estimated 5 or more–likely died attempting to protect it from capture. This has irreversibly negative affects on chimpanzee populations. Chimpanzees have very slow reproduction rates and require a high degree of parental investment to survive.

How to help

Zoos are willing to spend $20,000 for a live chimpanzee because they know hundreds of thousands of people will pay to see them in captivity. When you visit zoos that have great apes, whether in North America, Europe or Asia, make sure you know where the great apes came from. Were they born in captivity? Or were they smuggled into the country illegally? If we, as consumers, refused to give zoos that participate in great ape trafficking our money, there would be no sense for them to continue engaging in the destructive trade. Raise awareness about this issue by sharing and discussing information related to great ape trafficking, and contact your local zoo to make sure you know about the origin of their chimpanzees. If we allow this to continue, zoos may be the only remaining refuge for our closest relatives.

Source: Cadell Last.