According to the 8 May 2006 issue of the Los Angeles Times, six U.S. zoos, led by the San Diego Zoo, have shared a group of 33 monkeys imported from South Africa, which had in turn imported them from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The zoos paid a South African dealer US $400,000 for the animals, over $12,000 per monkey.
The zoos admitted that the monkeys were all caught in the wild, but justified their purchase by claiming they are all “orphans” and were “leftovers” from the “illegal bush meat trade in Africa.” IPPL is opposed to all commercial trade in wildlife because we feel that one profitable completed deal will serve to encourage traders and open the way for more trade.
Therefore we immediately contacted wildlife authorities in the DRC, and were delighted to receive a reply agreeing with our denunciation of the commercial trade in monkeys.
On 16 May 2006 IPPL received a message from Pasteur Cosmos Wilungula Balongelwa, Director-General of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN, Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) to whom we had expressed our concern over the monkey export.
I received your e-mail and thank you for the interest that you show in support of conservation in my country. I am the person responsible for conservation in the RDC and I also condemn all the people who participate in this commerce in our fauna. I condemn also the zoos who engage in buying animals by illegal means....
ICCN makes this request to all of you, CITES, and other scientific personnel devoted to the cause of conservation, to kindly support our conservation efforts by denouncing such cases and identifying the persons and zoos that are participants in this commerce.
You know that the DRC has 2,345,000 square kilometers and has nine borders with foreign countries; hence it is not possible to cover all the territory of DRC in this post-conflict period. When the moment comes when we have conditions of peace and can mobilize financial resources, we will be capable of protecting our fauna and its wonderful treasures.
We encourage you to support us by strong lobbying so that our fauna, which is part of the world’s patrimony, is protected from abusive exploitation.
The Times stated that Karen Killmar, Associate Curator of Mammals at San Diego Zoo, defended the purchase by claiming that the man who offered her the monkeys,
was not a poacher, just a businessman who bought the monkeys in Congo in hopes of making a profit by selling them in more prosperous South Africa, where the sale of exotic pets is legal.
The monkeys were reportedly distributed as follows:
• San Diego Zoo, California, four Allen’s swamp monkeys and one De Brazza’s guenon;
• Wildlife World Zoo, Litchfield Park, Arizona, four black mangabeys and two Schmidt’s spot-nosed guenons;
• Denver Zoo, Colorado, two Wolf’s guenons and two De Brazza’s guenons;
• Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida, two Wolf’s guenons and four Schmidt’s spotnosed guenons;
• Houston Zoo, Texas, two Schmidt’s spot-nosed guenons, two Allen’s swamp monkeys and two De Brazza’s guenons; and
• San Antonio Zoo, Texas, two Wolf’s guenons and four black mangabeys
According to the Times,
Zoo officials debated the possibility that the move might encourage others in Africa to offer monkeys for sale. The decision was made to continue the transaction but to spread a cautionary word in animal circles.
Famous nature photographer Karl Amman took a different view. He commented,
The moment you buy primates—and they clearly were bought rather than confiscated—you create a market and a new dimension to the bushmeat trade. So rather then saving any primates from the bushmeat trade there is a high chance that you will condemn a wide range of additional primates to become victims of it.
If you then combine this with press statements whereby a half a million dollars has changed hands to get these monkeys to U.S. zoos, you have every crook in Kinshasa (and there are tons of them) deciding that this is a trade where they can easily make big bucks. I consider this transaction as being very, very irresponsible in the bushmeat and conservation context.
IPPL is seeking more information about the South African party/parties involved and the circumstances surrounding their acquisition of these monkeys. U.S import records identify “Bester’s Birds and Animals” as the South African exporter, but others may be involved. Michael Bester is a well-known animal trader and his web site (www.besterbirdsanimals.co.za) lists large numbers of mammals and birds for sale.
IPPL strongly supports Dr. Belongelwa’s plea for help in ending the monkey trade. IPPL plans to work with him to protect his nation’s monkeys.
How You Can Protest the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Monkey Trafficking
IPPL hopes that you will send letters encouraging the Democratic Republic of Congo to ban all monkey exports and expel all foreign animal dealers seeking to export monkeys from the country. Postage to the DRC from the United States costs 84 cents per ounce.
Dr. Anselme ENERUNGA Ministère de l’Environnement, Conservation de la Nature, Eaux et Forêts Avenue Papa ILEO (Ex-des Cliniques) No. 15 Kinshasa/Gombe B.P. 12348 Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
His Excellency the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo 1800 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Washington DC 20009, USA
His Excellency the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo Embassy of Democratic Republic of Congo 281 Gray’s Inn Road London, WC1X 8QF, United Kingdom
If you’d like the American Zoo Association to know that you strongly object to any zoo purchasing primates caught in the wild, please contact:
Jim Maddy, Executive Director, American Zoo and Aquarium Association 8403 Colesville Road, Suite 710 Silver Spring, MD 20910-3314, USA Phone: 301-562-0777 Fax: 301-562-0888
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