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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before