‘In 10 years, in 20 years, we won’t have any more chimpanzees.’
– Col. Assoumou Assoumou, Ivory Coast detective
Black market traders massacre chimpanzees in order to steal their babies and sell them for $12,500 as pets or zoo animals, a heartbreaking BBC investigation has uncovered.
A group of undercover BBC reporters posed as buyers to help bust a notorious international network of wildlife traffickers — known as the “blue room” — in West Africa.
The traffickers kill about 10 adult chimpanzees for every infant, making it easier to capture the baby without resistance. The adults’ bodies are then sold for bushmeat.
Meanwhile, the babies are stuffed in crates to be sold to wealthy clients in the Middle East, China and Southeast Asia. If the babies don’t die in transit, a horrible fate still awaits them. Once they have grown beyond the infant stage, adult chimps are often locked up — or even killed — as they become harder to control.
During the yearlong investigation, the BBC reporters built relationships with traders across Africa, and eventually were connected to Ibrahima Traore, a trader from Guinea who said he had chimpanzee farms in Guinea, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. He sent the reporters videos of a baby chimp from a base in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a country situated between Liberia and Ghana.
The video was filmed at a location with a blue tiled floor — a familiar setting for authorities and investigators who’ve spent years trying to nab the operation’s ringleaders.
After arriving at the Abidjan location, and confirming the baby chimp was there, the reporters notified police and Interpol, which raided the site and arrested the traffickers, including ringleader Traore.
The baby chimp was rescued and named Nemley Junior by wildlife officials from the Ministry of Water and Forests. Nemley was brought to an Abidjan zoo, where an older female and two infant chimps reportedly have accepted him.
The arrests were a major step in the international community’s effort to break up the corrupt trafficking network that has plagued African wildlife, particularly chimpanzees, for years.
According to a 2013 report from the UN Environment Program, roughly 3,000 great apes — including orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees — are lost to illegal trade each year. Western chimpanzees like Nemley are listed as critically endangered, with fewer than 65,000 left in the world.
Chimp Trade: How Apes Are smuggled – BBC News
“In 10 years, in 20 years, we won’t have any more chimpanzees,” Col. Assoumou Assoumou, an Ivory Coast detective, told the BBC. “These are rare species and it should not be us, in our generation, that wipes them out.”
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