According to the report, 22,000 great apes are estimated to have been lost to the illicit trade between 2005 and 2011. The study was conducted by the UN Environment Program, which oversees the Great Apes Survival Partnership (Grasp).
“This trade is thriving and extremely dangerous to the long term survival of great apes,” said Grasp coordinator Doug Cress, describing the illegal trade as “sophisticated, ingenious, well financed, well armed.”
“At this rate, apes will disappear very quickly,” he said.
The conservationists added that as apes live in a group it is never just one killing that takes place. To capture one, many others are slaughtered.
“You cannot walk into a forest and just take one. You have to fight for it. You have to kill the other chimpanzees in the group,” he told reporters during the CITES conference on endangered species in Bangkok.
International trade in chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas — the three African species of great apes — as well as orangutans, the only Asian species, is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
But the apes are sold illegally and bought by people who wish to own exotic pets or by disreputable zoos”. The report also added that some of these captured animals were used by the entertainment and tourist industry.
“Great apes are used to attract tourists to entertainment facilities such as amusement parks and circuses. They are even used in tourist photo sessions on Mediterranean beaches and clumsy boxing matches in Asian safari parks,” it said.