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New data reveal the distressing growth of great ape trade


10 October 2016 News

 

A new database published at the Cites meeting (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg exposes the startling extent to which illegal trade in great apes has been under-reported. 1.800 seizures of great apes have taken place during the last decade without any significant public outcry.

Since 2005, around 1800 chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have been captured in 23 countries, and these seizures have largely gone unreported. Indeed, it is difficult to find reliable data on this issue. International seizures are reported by Cites, but not seizures within national borders, which has led to a misleading impression about the extent of this trade.

Incomplete records give a false impression about the spread of trade in great apes

The new Apes Seizures Database gives a more complete picture. The founder of this new database, Doug Cress, says: “It’s definitely a staggering number, it’s larger than we expected.” He adds that the capturing of one chimpanzee or one gorilla usually means the killing of 4 to 10 others which finally amounts to repeated massacres in the wild. Orangutans alone account for 67% of the seizures reported. Chimpanzees represent almost 25% of all seizures while gorillas account for 6%. This “live trade,” as Doug Cress affirms, is motivated by cash rewards. A chimpanzee in Asia is worth up to $30.000 while a gorilla can be sold for up to $45,000. The dangers of this trade include not only environmental threats but also the risk that these animals can transmit and spread diseases among the human populations. HIV is actually believed to have been originally spread by apes. Doug Cress hopes that his new database will usher a new phase of resistance against this illegal and dangerous trade.

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