FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Illegal Trade Robs Wild of Almost 3000 Great Apes Annually
Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans is the first report to analyze the scale and scope of the illegal trade and highlights the growing links to sophisticated trans-boundary crime networks, which law enforcement networks are struggling to contain.
Stolen Apes, which was produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), estimates that 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 - with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of that number.
The report examines confiscation records, international trade databases, law enforcement reports, and arrival rates from sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers between 2005 and 2011.
Stolen Apes says that each great ape confiscated or confirmed in the illegal trade represents many more that died either during the capture or the trafficking process.
Over the past seven years, a minimum of 643 chimpanzees, 48 bonobos, 98 gorillas and 1,019 orangutans are documented to have been captured from the wild for illegal trade. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, and extrapolating from this research the report estimates that at least 2,972 great apes are lost from the wild each year.
"The taking of great apes from the wild is not new - it has gone on for well over a century," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. "But the current scale outlined in this report underlines how important it is that the international community and the organizations responsible for conserving endangered species remain vigilant, keeping a step ahead of those seeking to profit from such illegal activities."
All great apes are endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as Appendix I animals.
Yet Stolen Apes reveals that the illegal trade has shifted from being a by-product of traditional conservation threats such as deforestation, mining and bush-meat hunting to a more sophisticated business driven by demand from international markets.
These markets include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and wealthy individuals who want exotic pets as status symbols. Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amusement parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and boxing matches in Asian safari parks.
Since 2007, standing orders from zoos and private owners in Asia have spurred the export of over 130 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas under falsified permits from Guinea alone, an enterprise that requires a coordinated trading network through Central and West Africa. A safari park in Thailand admitted in 2006 that it acquired at least 54 orangutans from the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.