(Washington, D.C.) Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where she met with Provincial Minister of Environment Mr. Anselme Kitaya and Kahuzi Biega National Park Director Mr. Radar Nishuli and shared a message from global conservation, animal welfare, and science groups in support of DRC’s pledge to end the export of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and other primates.
Dr. Jane Goodall said: “The Democratic Republic of Congo pledged to end exports of all primates at the most recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). I commend the Congolese government for its brave action to help stop the illegal trade that threatens the survival of chimpanzees and other wild primates.”
African great apes — chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos — are listed on Appendix I of the CITES convention on international trade of endangered species. Appendix I lists the highly endangered species at risk of extinction and prohibits any commercial international trade of these species.
However, the illegal global trade in great apes is a significant problem. Recent studies by the United Nations Great Apes Survival Partnership estimate that at minimum 22,000 great apes have been lost to the illegal trade since 2005, including more than 14,000 chimpanzees.
Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, said: “DRC is one of the top four countries on Earth for primate diversity and is second only to Brazil in tropical forest cover. It also has the highest great ape diversity on Earth, with three species and five taxa, two of which — bonobos and Grauer’s gorillas — are endemic to the country. The future of a large part of Africa’s primate diversity, and indeed the world’s, depends on the DRC and its conservation policies.”
Claudine André, Founder of bonobo sanctuary Lola ya Bonobo in Kinshasa, DRC, said: “Bonobos live only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Scientists estimate 50 percent of their population will be gone in the next 30 years. Congo’s pledge to stop the export of primates helps us protect these remarkable animals that are a source of pride for our nation.”
Franck Chantereau, Founder of Jeunes Animaux Confisques au Katanga (J.A.C.K.), DRC, said: “The trade of infant chimps for local demand and international trade is drastically underestimated. Between 1996 and 2006, 4,000 chimps — equivalent to the total number of wild chimpanzees remaining in Uganda — were stolen from their natural habitats in Lubumbashi, DRC.”
Carmen Vidal, Director of Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Centre added: "We support the engagement of DRC’s government in protecting the Congolese fauna. Government action to prohibit fauna exports to other countries and to protect all the orphaned animals now residing in sanctuaries will assure their safety, helping these animals rescued from illegal trade and hunting to regain the life that has been taken from them.”
Grace Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “More than 40 percent of African primates are threatened with extinction. The global illegal wildlife trade is devastating these apes and the diverse species of monkeys across the Congo region, and the government’s pledge is an important step to address this threat.”
One of the many threats wild primates face is export from African countries to China. The Guardian newspaper reports that since 2007, more than 130 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas have been exported from Africa to China for zoos and private collections. Dr. Teresa Telecky, Director of the Wildlife Department for Humane Society International, said: “Primates captured and exported for the live animal trade often lead decades-long, destitute lives with poor standards of care. We commend the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for pledging to put an end to this grossly inhumane and completely unnecessary trade and urge them to fulfill their pledge.”
Julie Sherman, Executive Director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, said: “Experts estimate that poachers kill five to 15 apes for each one that is illegally sold as a pet, tourist attraction or for bushmeat. We applaud Democratic Republic of Congo’s pledge to end primate exports, and we urge other African nations to take similar action to protect their remarkable and diverse monkeys and apes from this horrific trade.”