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'Survival of Great Apes' Imperiled as 3,000 Lost to Illegal Trade Each Year

Fragile ecosystem in danger from steady loss of biodiversity

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Roughly 3,000 great apes are stolen, traded, or killed each year, according to a new report by the UN Environment Program, which warns that the vast disappearance of primates will do great harm to the forest ecosystems of Africa and South-east Asia.

(Photo: Corbis) The report “Stolen Apes: The Illicit Trade in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos and Orangutans” says traders within an organized trans-boundary network trade the apes in "the same ways as drugs, arms and laundered money," which has amounted to over 22,000 stolen apes since 2005.

"This trade is thriving and extremely dangerous to the long term survival of great apes," said Doug Cress,  coordinator for the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

"At this rate, apes will disappear very quickly," Cress stated. “Great apes are extremely important for the health of forests in Africa and Asia, and even the loss of 10 or 20 at a time can have a deep impact on biodiversity."

The majority of the apes traded are chimpanzees but also include bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. They are commonly killed during the hunt or die in captivity.

Those who survive are sold as exotic pets for wealthy individuals, zoos, and the entertainment and tourist industries, the report stated.

"Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amusement parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and clumsy boxing matches in Asian safari parks," it said.

The report coincides with the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) currently underway in Bangkok, Thailand.

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