The Lwiru Primates Rehabilitation Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo gives orphaned chimpanzees and monkeys a safe place to recover after being rescued from poachers or illegal owners who tried to domesticate them.
“Today, the center has a total of at least 112 chimpanzees and 118 small monkeys. All these animals came from the hands of poachers,” Claude Sylvestre Libaku, manager at the center, told news agency Reuters.
The center usually releases monkeys when they’ve been rehabilitated, but the presence of soldiers and poachers in forests makes it difficult to release the animals.
“There are already groups [of apes] that are ready to be reintegrated, but the presence of armed groups in the forest is blocking us,” Libaku said. “There is also poaching that continues. It is difficult to reintegrate the animals as long as there are still these armed groups in the forest.”
“We estimate that the number of animals we have in this center is the number of families missing in the wild. When there is a small chimpanzee in a group, to capture him, they [poachers] have to start by eliminating the whole family just to capture the little one,” Libaku explained.
Baby chimpanzees are sold as pets or for the entertainment industry. Adult monkeys are often killed for their meat.
Congo hosts the largest number of great apes in Africa, but most species are declining in population due to forest loss, hunting and trafficking, according to the latest report by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).
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