An orphaned chimpanzee, chained by the neck, has been released by wildlife campaigners from traffickers in Cameroon.
The ape, thought to be nine months old, was traumatised after her mother was shot and killed by poachers.
She was discovered in Ebolowa, Cameroon, by members of the Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA), which battles wildlife crime across Africa.
The group said: ‘The ape trafficker was arrested while attempting to sell the chimpanzee. The animal had been chained and caged alongside a dog in the home of the trafficker. The little female was frail and aggressive and looked like she had suffered from trauma. There is a need to continue saving baby chimps whose families are wiped out.’
The WWF describes chimps as ‘highly social animals, who care for their offspring for years and can live to be over 50. In fact, chimpanzees are our closest cousins; we share about 98 per cent of our genes.”
It added: ‘Despite our shared lineage Chimpanzees are nearing extinction in many countries, due to deforestation and commercial hunting for bushmeat.
‘Poaching is a prominent threat. Bushmeat has always been a primary food source in Central and West Africa, but in recent years poaching has become commercialised to satisfy the appetites of wealthy urban residents. Infant chimpanzees are frequently taken alive and sold in cities as pets.’
Last Great Ape Organisation
LAGA was formed in 2002 at a time when prosecutions for wildlife crime in Africa were virtually non-existent and has now been recognised with international awards, including from Interpol and the UK royal family.
The group explained it was born because the survival of Africa’s great apes demanded urgent action and without it, the great apes and many other endangered species would soon become extinct.
In the last month, in two separate incidents, pangolin poachers were identified and arrested and a total of 137 kg of scales, worth more than US$200,000 on the Chinese medicine market, was seized.
And in another prosecution, two traffickers were handed over to police trying to smuggle a mandrill – a large Old World monkey native to west central Africa – which was believed destined for the illegal pet trade.
According to LAGA it is ‘a field-based organisation designed to establish the effective enforcement of local wildlife law that is critical to the survival of the threatened animals.
‘The Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) made the courageous decision to go ahead with a pilot project in collaboration with LAGA. The collaboration seeks to create a successful model that will provide the missing ingredient in the wildlife conservation formula: creating a deterrent factor.
LAGA is the first specialised Law Enforcement NGO in the sub-region. It focuses on threatened species and mainly on the dealers, (who are) the primary generators of the illegal bushmeat business, the ivory trade and the pet trade.’
As well as now working outside Cameroonian borders the group has expanded its activities to the protection of other species.