Every horror story

about the tragedies unfolding in the wildlife trade always comes back to Asia, particularly China.

Stolen Apes launch at CITES in Bangkok, March 3, 2013.

Out of the summit of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species recently held in Bangkok, comes an estimate that 3,000 great apes are illegally captured each year in forests, often to be sold as pets or tourist attractions.

The illegal trade

is controlled by organized crime syndicates–the profits are as high as smuggling drugs and guns, the chances of getting convicted are far lower and, if busted, the penalties are often trivial.

A minimum of 22,218 great apes have been lost from the wild since 2005–either sold, killed during the hunt, or dying in captivity. In the same time, only 27 arrests were made in Africa and Asia in connection with the great apes trade. A quarter were never even prosecuted.

An orphaned chimpanzee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: This male went to a sanctuary, others are less lucky. (Photo: Laura Darby/African Primates/IUCN)

Chimps and orangutans,

the most common live-traded apes, sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Gorillas can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. All this despite the fact that CITES has identified the great apes as endangered and mandated a ban on international trade in the species.

The international community needs to wake up and put some teeth in the enforcement of wildlife laws, particularly sanctions on China, Thailand and Vietnam, where, in addition to orders for primates from zoos and private owners, a vast trade in ivory, rhino horn, crocodile leather and even exotic plants is literally exhausting flora and fauna around the world.

Hopefully the scope of the lawless poaching and destruction of wildlife by organized crime and rebel militias presented at CITES, which ends today, will spur governments around the world to wake up to what is unfolding and take real action.

Source: Damian Carrington for the Guardian.