By Andrew Wasike
LAIKIPIA, Kenya (AA) – Renowned British primatologist, Jane Goodall, has warned that there is a surge in the illegal trade of infant chimpanzees in Central and West Africa.
Goodall, who has conducted groundbreaking studies on primate behavior for 55 years, said there was a rise in capturing infant chimpanzees with the purpose of exporting them to countries in Asia and the Middle East.
“We have to educate [the] people in Asia and the Middle East about the fact that it is so wrong to take these chimpanzees as pets, they are not little play things,” Goodall told Anadolu Agency on Thursday when she re-opened the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya after it had been closed for renovation.
She said her organization aims to spread the message to the youth across the world that chimpanzees cannot be used as pets and educate the next generation to look after nature “better than the current generation”.
“It is important for the young people to learn how similar we are with these young apes,” Goodall said.
According to a report by UNESCO in 2013, as many as 22, 218 wild great apes were lost between 2005 and 2011 because of illegal trade.
The report said illegal wildlife trade makes up a billion-dollar business.
Commercially hunted for food, chimpanzees are usually caught in snares, which they can’t free themselves from, Goodall said.
“In the past, the snares were made of vines which could easily break, but nowadays they are made from wires which cut into their flesh,” she said.
This is the main reason why rescued chimpanzees are either missing an arm or a foot or have scars all over their bodies, Goodall said.
Most of the chimpanzees at the sanctuary are saved from previous owners who had chained them up and locked them in cages. Other chimpanzees were rescued while on transit to Asia where they would serve as pets.
Goodall said chimpanzees have a photographic memory and that they can remember people who previously tortured them.
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary is home to more than 50 orphaned and abused chimpanzees around the age of 15 from central and West Africa.
It lies on the foot of the snowcapped Mount Kenya in the Ol Pejeta conservancy, a 90,000 acres private wildlife conservancy.