UPDATE: December 12, 2022 – We are really sad to report that this infant chimpanzee passed away after her arrival at Lwiro. Veterinarians there suspect that she may have had some liver disease, but they are awaiting lab results for final confirmation. Once they announce detailed results we will share another update. 

On December 1, Gorilla Doctors DR Congo team received an infant chimpanzee that was confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade. This young female was the fifth infant chimpanzee to be rescued in 2022. Drs. Fabrice and Eddy fed, hydrated and treated her wounds before she was transferred to the Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center for long-term care.

Dr. Fabrice offers a banana to the rescued infant chimpanzee at Gorilla Doctors office in Goma, DR Congo. © Gorilla Doctors

While five infants in a calendar year may not seem like a high number, during a Zoom meeting with Dr. Eddy this morning he told us that when an infant is taken from its chimpanzee family in the wild, anywhere from one to three adult chimpanzees are killed. In most cases the mother and at least one of the adult males will die trying to protect the infant. Sometimes when one or more males come to the defense of the infant the mother may drop her baby in fear and run off. In those cases, the mother is more likely to survive.

When yesterdays’ infant arrived at our office in Goma she was hungry and dehydrated, eagerly accepting the banana offered by Dr. Fabrice. She had a wound on her chest and multiple other small wounds on her body that we cleaned and treated with betadine.

Dr. Fabrice cuts a rope from around the infant’s waist. © Gorilla Doctors

Dr. Fabrice cleans and treats the infant’s wounds. © Gorilla Doctors

We then provided additional food and water in her crate, covered the crate with blankets and then transferred her to Lwiro on an overnight ferry down Lake Kivu. On the ferry she had her own room, which was kept warm and dark to reduce stress. The ferry arrived at Bukavu in early morning where she was then picked up by Lwiro staff for the two-hour drive to the sanctuary.

According to a 2018 report, Illicit Financial Flows and the Illegal Trade in Great Apes, produced by Global Financial Integrity, the estimated annual international market for live infants is $2.1 – $8 million USD. The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates the entire illegal wildlife trade (all species trafficked) is between USD $7.8-10 billion with an ever-increasing demand. A 2020 report, State of the Apes, from the Arcus Foundation shares, “An individual ape can fetch between USD $10,000 and USD $50,000.

Each time that another innocent animal comes to us, we are angered and heartbroken. Gorilla Doctors is highly committed to caring for infant chimpanzees and other wildlife (other primates, parrots, etc.) that the Congolese wildlife authority, the Institut Congolais pour le Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), confiscates and transfers to us for triage. The illegal wildlife trade is complex, reaches every single country on the planet in some form or another, and will take sustained and extraordinary effort to dismantle. We maintain a sense of hope that someday our work with confiscated wildlife will no longer be necessary because illegal wildlife trafficking has ended due to the efforts of leading organizations like WildAid which works to reduce the global demand and consumption of wildlife products.