Chimpanzee babies starved by rare animal smugglers

Customs officials at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi know to listen out for whimpers coming from crates that pass through the customs hall. As a transport hub for East Africa, animals flown illegally from one part of the world to another frequently pass through here.

Last week officials made the biggest seizure of its kind when they found five baby chimpanzees and four guenon monkeys crammed together in a tiny crate on a plane coming in from South Sudan.

"The baby chimps were found in a pitiful state and they are still emotionally traumatised by what they have been through. They probably saw their mother killed in front of them," said Richard Obanda, a senior official at Kenya Wildlife Services, which has taken charge of the animals.

"When we found them, they were starving, and some had started eating their own faeces." The chimpanzees have a black market value of around $20,000 (£10,500) each, and Kenya Wildlife Services said it believed the animals were being taken to Nigeria from Egypt. The raid highlights the magnitude of the worldwide trade in chimpanzees, mankind's closest relatives.

They are classified as a highly endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and there are believed to be only 200,000 remaining in the world. They can only be transported for very specific reasons, but 32,000 primates annually are still bought and sold on the international market. One third go to America to be kept in zoos or used in laboratory research, where they are used to research infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids and hepatitis. Conservationists estimate that at least a quarter of the trade worldwide is illegal and that as many as eight chimpanzees are killed for every one exported alive.

Interpol, the international police agency, estimates that illegal wildlife trade is worth $5bn a year, second only to drugs in the worldwide black market. Within their native habitats, chimpanzees are sought for food. Around 6,000 are killed each year and eaten by rural populations in Africa who cannot afford any other source of meat. In the jungles of eastern Cameroon and Congo, gorillas and chimpanzees have long been considered a source of food, but the dense growth that surrounded their habitats often foiled hunters. Now European logging companies have opened up huge tracts of forests and carry bushmeat from the hunters directly to the towns, where gorilla and chimpanzee meat sells at three times the price of beef.

"Chimpanzees are threatened by humans who regard then as both pets and as food," Mr Obanda said. "Many people in the Middle East like to keep baby chimpanzees as pets but once they grow to full size they get very strong and powerful. They end up frightening their owners and then end up on someone's plate. It's double jeopardy."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there