Heart-breaking moment baby chimp was rescued discovered cowering amid skulls of her dead family
This is the moment a tiny baby chimpanzee was found cowering on the floor after rescuers discovered it held captive surrounded by the heads of its family.
Last weekend wildlife campaigners LAGA with the Cameroonian authorities raided two wildlife traffickers in the country and arrested them in an undercover sting operation.
The operations team handcuffed two men as it discovered the grim haul of seven chimp heads and 30 legs alongside a terrified youngster still alive.
The two men were believed to have been trying to take their sick cargo across the border to Nigeria. LAGA said they admitted the offence that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
A spokesman for LAGA said: “They were forwarded to court on Wednesday last week and the illegal trade in great apes is transnational specialised and organised.
“And such horrific sights are common in the numerous arrest operations of ape traffickers carried this year.
“Sources close to the latest case say the two arrested traffickers had been supplying dozens of chimpanzee heads which are transported to Nigeria.
“All they need is for the client to place orders early enough for the poaching to provide the necessary quantities.
“Harrowing indeed and something traffickers had successfully put out of the view of enforcement officials.
“While the focus had been on the meat, a more sinister and dangerous trade had been ongoing. It never gets worse than this for the great apes.
“As for the six-month old baby chimpanzee that was seized though, she has been very lucky and received immediate medical attention from experienced veterinarians.
“But the stress still continues as she cries loud when approached by humans.”
The director of LAGA and the EAGLE Network – another wildlife body – Ofir Drori said the organisation had across eight countries helped imprison more than 1,000 major traffickers up to now.
Great apes are protected by law in all countries but weak law enforcement capacity, illegal trade, illegal logging, mining, disease and conflicts has undermined most efforts to save them.
He said: “My personal story is of an adventurer turned into an activist, spending years in the most remote areas of the African bush living with isolated tribes crossing thousands of kilometeres on foot, with my camel, horse, canoe and so on.
“On the way I have been an educator, photographer, volunteer in humanitarian operations and a journalist.
“I came to Cameroon to write about the extinction of apes and realised very fast that the problem of the illegal trade that drives chimps and gorillas to extinction is routed in corruption.
“I exposed the shocking fact – almost all countries of Central and West Africa never had a single wildlife prosecution – not a single time was an ape trafficker or ivory dealer ever prosecuted – total failure and zero wildlife law enforcement, all this because of corruption.
“But I was not just angry with the African governments I was angry with NGOs and International Institutions that used millions of euros of public funds and were just as part of this failure and worse – they even hiding it.
“After rescuing a baby chimp and becoming his father and mother, I felt obliged to stay and try to make a difference, open the first wildlife law enforcement NGO, set to fight corruption to get the wildlife law applied, and show you can get it done not through more money or more talks but through activism.
“Our mission was to develop a new model and show the way we deal with wildlife crime has to change.
“That we need not to focus on small poachers but on the big traffickers activating them, to fight corruption complicity and impunity to get the law applied, and that we need to replace the endless discussions and conferences in indicators- number of big traffickers prosecuted and imprisoned.”
LAGA has been working with governments and with arrest investigations since 2003.
Ofir said: “Most of our work is in fighting corruption – we detect corruption in 85 percent of our arrest operations, and in 80 percent of our cases in court.
“Imagine how dysfunctional enforcement and judicial systems are, due to corruption.
“We are not just detecting corruption, our role is to fight these corruption attempts. We get good backing from governments wishing to fight corruption within its services.
“We use the wildlife sector as an opening to intensify the fight against corruption way beyond the sector and give it concrete meaning and precedence.”