Kenyan smuggling ring cracked with seizure of baby chimps
Kenyan authorities said Tuesday they had cracked a notorious African wildlife smuggling route with the seizure late last month of six baby chimpanzees and four rare Guenon monkeys.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the animals were seized on January 31 from a tiny crate at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while en route to Nigeria apparently from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
"This is the biggest seizure in the recent years," KWS official Edward Indakwa told AFP. "In the past, we only seized one or two animals."
"We believe this was part of a massive ring that smuggled these animals from unstable regions like Congo and sold them to owners of zoos, leisure parks and other people who want them as pets," another KWS official said.
The baby chimps, with an estimated value of at least 23,000 dollars each, and the four Guenon monkeys, were confiscated by airport customs officials and turned over the wildlife agency, KWS spokeswoman Connie Maina told AFP.
KWS officials said customs officials became suspicious of a woman with a two-foot by three-foot crate marked as ordinary luggage from which they heard unusual noises.
The woman told authorities the animals were dogs, but when customs officers opened the crate, "they found the primates in distress," a KWS ranger said.
Officials said the woman, who escaped before she could be detained, had made earlier unsuccesful attempts to bring the animals into Lagos and Cairo but was rejected because she did not have the proper documentation.
Chimpanzees are designated a highly endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and trading in them is completely barred by the treaty, to which Kenya is a party.
They face rapid extinction from their natural habitat, due to a surge in demand for bush meat, deforestation, illness and the high interest among wealthy collectors for exotic pets, mainly in Europe and Asia.
KWS officials said they were working with officials in Nigeria and Egypt to try to completely shut down the smuggling route.
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