Wildlife Trafficking & Poaching

Means one thing to great apes — death.

Wildlife trafficking, poaching, bushmeat, illegal wildlife trade — all mean one thing to great apes — death.

Ultimately they spell extinction. While other threats may seem more dire, and have the potential for greater destruction, such as habitat loss or pandemic disease outbreak, poaching of great apes in all its forms not only pushes apes to the precipice in some regions, but also creates refugee camps filled with orphaned baby apes that will likely never be returned to the wild.

chimpanzee skull poaching Cameroonchimpanzee poaching orphanorangutan poaching victimorangutan poaching victim, Yayasan IAR, Ketapang West Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesiabushmeat poaching primate Cameroon

Silencing the Forest

Large mammals like great apes play a vital role in the longterm health of their forest ecosystem. Their disappearance may leave the forest standing but biodiverse dead; bushmeat poaching the grim reaper.

The illegal bushmeat trade has led to what is commonly referred to as the “Empty Forest Syndrome,” a condition where forests remain structurally intact but are largely devoid of wildlife, especially large mammals like great apes. The loss of wildlife biodiversity also disrupts natural ecological processes such as pollination and seed dispersion, leading to the further degradation of the overall ecosystem.

Apes have long been poached for bushmeat across Equatorial Africa and now we learn Borneo as well**. While taboos exist in many cultural communities that share the forest with apes, in others, gorillas, chimps and orang-utans are desired and lucrative bushmeat. Many researchers also see the direct poaching and eating of apes as critical open door to the spread of infectious disease.

Roads to Death

The growing problem posed by illegal, unsustainable hunting for bushmeat is exacerbated by the construction of new roads to facilitate logging, palm oil and mining operations, allowing poachers easy access to remote forests. In villages or logging camps where meat from domesticated animals is scarce and expensive, wild animals are hunted as a cheap and locally available source of protein. In many African cities, eating bushmeat has become a status symbol for the wealthy and the demand for wild meat has steadily increased. Although the practice earns hunters and traders quick cash in the short-term, it is ultimately unsustainable, and denies opportunities for the wider community and future generations to benefit from wildlife.

Follow Gerry Exploring Trafficking & Poaching Issues

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Resources & Link

**Quantifying Killing of Orangutans and Human-Orangutan Conflict in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Updated 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Video courtesy of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Photo Note: All the caged great apes shown on this page are victims of the poaching trade — all are now in the care and protection of legal and highly reputable sanctuaries.

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