Great apes face extinction as food trade grows

Man's closest living relatives - the great apes of Africa - are being eaten into extinction, according to an investigation into the hunting of chimpanzees and gorillas in central and western Africa.

A British-based charity, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, has amassed evidence that thousands of endangered apes are being slaughtered for their meat and other body parts.

Although all species of great ape, from the common chimpanzee to the rare mountain gorilla, are protected under international conventions and national laws, this has not prevented a flourishing trade in 'bush meat', the name given to the slaughtered game.

Body parts of the apes are also being used in witchdoctor potions. The investigation found, for instance, that the dried hands of gorillas were often ground into powder and sprinkled into babies' baths 'to make them grow strong'.

The society claims that in the Congo Republic alone, up to 600 lowland gorillas and 3,000 chimps are being killed each year. Garry Richardson, the society's director for Africa, warned: 'If these levels of hunting are allowed to continue, man will literally eat the great apes of Africa to extinction.'

It is estimated that the total common chimp population in Africa is between 100,000 and 200,000 spread over 20 countries. The population of the Bonobo pygmy chimp, which lives exclusively in Zaire, is about 20,000. There are fewer than 50,000 lowland gorillas in the Gabon, Congo and Zaire, and just 650 mountain gorillas, which live on the hills of Rwanda, Zaire and Uganda.

The society's year-long investigation found 'vast quantities' of ape meat on open sale in many food markets throughout central and western Africa.

Increased logging of forests in the region had fuelled demand for bush meat by a growing population of migrant workers, the society said. 'Hunters are exploiting the new logging routes and using the timber trucks to transport bush meat to logging townships and to outlying cities.'

Mr Richardson called for the banning of a type of shotgun cartridge, the Chevratine, made by a French munitions company, MACC, based in the Congo.

The Chevratine contains nine lead balls which spread out into a two-foot- wide pattern. 'It is a very efficient killer of apes,' he said.

Measures to protect apes are failing because of the profit from the trade. A gorilla carcass can be sold for pounds 20 and a gorilla hand can fetch pounds 1 - representing small fortunes for poachers.

'A tragic by-product of the bush meat trade is the sale of orphaned apes, often taken whilst still clinging to their mothers, which are sold as household pets,' the society said.

Mr Richardson said orphaned apes were being sold for about pounds 40, mainly to the wealthy expatriate community. For every young animal that survived as an orphan, more than 50 were killed, Mr Richardson said.

Young orphaned animals taken as pets soon became too big and powerful and had to be chained or killed - one such animal had been chained by the neck to a tree for 13 years, he said.

'Chimpanzees are 98.6 per cent genetically identical to humans. They're highly sociable animals, always craving attention. The agony they endure in these conditions is virtually no different to that which a human would suffer.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness