Today in the morning of Wednesday, the Ministry of Waters and Forests freed Zita, an adult female chimpanzee held by an individual in the district of Dialogue in Franceville. According to the forestry code, this seizure was organized by the Provincial Directorate of Waters and Forests, and technically assisted by the Alliance of Great Apes in Gabon (AGSG) and the NGO Conservation Justice (CJ) . As it was recalled to the owner, it is in fact strictly prohibited to have a chimpanzee in captivity, to the extent that the species is fully protected in Gabon.
While officers of the Forestry documented the offense and informed the owner of the sanctions, the animal was anesthetized and transported by members of the Alliance of Great Apes in Gabon. Given the risk of infection represented by the chimpanzee (possible infection of humans in contact with the animal), its handling and transport were done respecting the precautions necessary bio- security and observing a minimum contact with the animal. The chimpanzee was then transferred to the International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF ) where it will be quarantined, to perform a complete checkup and eliminate any risk of infection. Then it will be transferred to the sanctuary of the Operative Society at Lékédi Park ( SODEPAL ) and reintroduced in a group of peers.
This seizure was conducted in accordance to the Forest Code that prohibited throughout the year, hunting, taking, possession, transportation and marketing of fully protected in Gabon such as the chimpanzee species. Any person infringing this Act is liable to prosecution, a penalty of six months imprisonment and a fine of up to 10 000 000 FCFA.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unusual and Forestry officers often face cases of illegal detention of primates by individuals. Keeping a chimpanzee in captivity is dangerous to man insofar as he can convey many communicable diseases but also because it becomes very aggressive and often growing up. Indeed, although a baby chimpanzee or gorilla can be affectionate and endearing, animals become a problem for owners when they grow and the owner often look to get rid of it.
Great Apes present in Gabon ( Gorillas , Chimpanzees ) are listed as endangered, meaning that without protection, these species will soon disappear from the planet. This is why Great Apes (Gorillas , Chimpanzees) are strictly protected species in Gabon. Unfortunately, despite the absolute prohibition of hunting, many chimpanzees and gorillas are still killed, and orphans are often collected by poachers.
Thus, both for legal, public issues relating to the conservation of fully protected species of Gabon, their hunting and capture in Gabonese forest health must be stopped and strongly condemned.
Director of Communications at Conservation Justice