From: Wangui Kanina, Reuters
Published February 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Kenya Seizes Smuggled Baby Chimps Crammed into Cage

NAIROBI — Kenya made its biggest seizure of primates in the battle to stop trade in endangered wildlife with the discovery of six baby chimpanzees crammed into a crate at an airport, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Tuesday.


The chimps, with a black market value of $20,000 each, and four Guenons, a type of long-tailed African monkey, were discovered abandoned and hungry on January 31 but have since been taken into care by the KWS and given toys to play with.


"The six babies were squashed in a small crate together with four Guenons, they were in a very pathetic condition," Eric Kalla, an assistant director at the (KWS) told Reuters.


"They had begun eating their own faecal matter due to hunger and unfortunately one baby chimp died due to stress and starvation," he said.


He said the animals, en route from Egypt to Nigeria via Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, belonged to a woman who had claimed the crate was a kennel containing dogs.


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Chimpanzees and other great apes are classified as a highly endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Trading in them is banned.


The chimpanzee, humanity's closest relative, is threatened by extinction because it is hunted for meat, and threatened by deforestation and disease. They are mainly found in western, central and parts of eastern Africa.


"The most worrying thing is that for six babies to be captured, six families could have been killed. This is a very sad situation" said Clement Mwale, the intelligence officer of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, an African organisation charged with investigating illegal trade in flora and fauna.


He said that the babies would have a price of close to $20,000 on the black market. Mwale said his office was working with Egyptian and Nigerian authorities to determine the origin of the animals.


The remaining five babies are currently in quarantine in large steel cages at the Kenya Wildlife Service, where they have been given ropes, warm blankets and toys to play with.


"They are just like children, they like to play with some of these colourful toys, and swinging on the ropes" Kalla said.


Source: Reuters


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