The Environmental Crime Crisis

Illicit trade in Great apes The primary threat to the Great apes is habitat loss. However, great apes are also trafficked in various ways. In many cases wild capture is opportunistic: farmers capture infant apes after having killed the mother during a crop-raid, or bush- meat hunters shoot or trap adults for food, and then collect the babies to sell. Organized illicit dealers increasingly target great apes as part of a far more sophisticated and systematic trade. They use transnational criminal networks to supply a range of markets, including the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and wealthy individuals who want exotic pets as status symbols. Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amuse- ment parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and boxing matches in Asian safari parks. Even conservative estimates suggest that the illegal trade in great apes is widespread. From 2005 to 2011, a minimum of 643 chimpanzees, 48 bonobos, 98 gorillas and 1,019 orangu- tans are documented to have been lost from the wild through illicit activities. These numbers are based on seizures and arrival rates of orphans at sanctuaries in 12 African countries and rehabilitation centres in Indonesia, expert reports, and great ape bushmeat and body parts seized from illegal traders. Based on extrapolations, it is likely that as many as 22,218 wild great apes were lost between 2005 and 2011 related to the illegal trade, with chimpanzees comprising 64 per cent of that number. The annual average loss of 2,972 great apes could have serious consequences for the biodiversity of key regions, given the important role great apes play in main- taining healthy ecosystems. Sadly, law enforcement efforts lag far behind the rates of illegal trade. Only 27 arrests were made in Africa and Asia in connection with great ape trade between 2005 and 2011, and one quarter of the arrests were never prosecuted. Prices for great apes vary greatly. A poacher may sell a live chimpanzee for USD 50–100, whereas the middleman will resell that same chimpanzee at a mark-up of as much as 400 per cent. Orangutans can fetch USD 1,000 at resale, and gorillas illegally sold to a zoo in Malaysia in 2002 reportedly went for USD 400,000 each. Such prices are extremely rare however, and the poacher who captures a live specimen may lose it to injuries, illness or stress, or have it confiscated if the poacher is arrested. At best, the actual poachers may earn only a fraction of the ultimate sale price of a great ape. 19


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