Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Save our closest kin

Chinoise watched as her mother was killed and butchered
Another traumatised baby chimp sold as a pet
This infant chimp desperately needs care
Fragile gorilla orphans quickly perish
An entire gorilla family killed for meat

Chinoise clung tightly to her mother, so young she had not yet taken her first steps, her hands and feet still soft and pink. Just a few weeks old and surrounded by her loving family, she was safe where she belonged. Until one day when the world came crashing down. When professional poachers came storming into her forest home, utterly ruthless and armed with automatic rifles.

One by one, amongst gut-wrenching panic and terrified screams, the cold-blooded hunters shot dead the chimpanzee community. Highly intelligent, emotional, inventive creatures, so similar to ourselves. Desperately trying to protect their children as deafening gunshots ricocheted through the trees. The entire clan was massacred in Cameroon, Central Africa, then – unbelievably – butchered for their meat. Luxury food for wealthy people. To be sold for a fortune and eaten as a ‘delicacy’ in cities worldwide, including Europe.

But not Chinoise. She was worth more alive. The hunters prised the petrified baby from her dead mother’s arms, shoved her in a sack and took her to market to sell as a pet. The tiny chimp was bought by a Chinese restaurant owner in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, then kept tied up to attract customers, who paid to have their photos taken with her. Otherwise she was largely ignored and given alcohol to keep her quiet. It is almost unimaginable and entirely unbearable to think of her anguish. In the wild infant chimps rarely leave their mother’s side in their first early months.

Every year hundreds of chimps are illegally killed in Africa to supply the voracious commercial ‘bushmeat’ and ‘exotic pet’ trades. But it’s not only about the cruelty and suffering. The chimpanzee’s very existence is threatened. One hundred years ago Africa was home to more than one and a half million wild chimps. Today as few as 170,000 remain, a horrifying 89% decline. Heading for extinction, our closest relatives are being eaten to death.

And it’s not just chimpanzees. In recent years literally thousands of our gorilla cousins have been slaughtered for meat in their jungle homes, their devastated babies sold as pets. Such sentient, sensitive animals who, like us, live in close-knit loving families and experience complex emotions – joy, sadness, empathy and intuition. Who skilfully use tools, recall the past, and plan for the future. But do these gentle, vegetarian apes actually have a future? In 1915 there were 50,000 eastern lowland gorillas. Today? As few as 4,000 (a 92% decline) and decreasing yearly. The species is in crisis, just a step from extinction.

These are dark days for Africa’s apes. Who share nearly 99% of their genetic blueprint with humans. The illegal trade in their meat and babies is a burgeoning, multi-million pound business, run by highly organised, commercially driven criminal networks. Facilitated by the opening up of forests for timber extraction and mining, their rich habitats replaced with monoculture plantations. Apes should be protected in every ‘range state’, but demand is rampant for infants as pets, ‘photo-props’, zoo exhibits and circus performers. Yet nine in ten bushmeat orphans, traumatised, malnourished and vulnerable to disease, die en route to market or in their first few weeks after capture.

But there are glimmers of light. With funds, Born Free can support brave rangers and protect wild apes in their forest homes. Will you help us? Our charity can also help apprehend poachers, bring dangerous criminals to justice and prosecute despicable dealers trading in chimps and gorillas. And it doesn’t end there. Life-saving sanctuaries can, against all odds, rescue orphans like Chinoise and provide good food and loving, round the clock care. But not alone. Will you help us take on these daunting challenges? The enclosed report explains more, but my apologies, it contains some distressing images. 

I expect you’re somewhat overwhelmed by the picture I have painted. It is a terrible story to have to tell. These remarkable animals deserve to live as nature intended and, with your kind help, we can try and make this possible. I do hope you will take this appeal to your heart and send you my good wishes as always.

How your gift could help

£10 fund a week’s medical care for a rescued chimp

£18 provide a week’s milk for a baby gorilla

£25 support a wildlife crime enforcement officer for three days

£40 buy a gorilla ranger’s new uniform from hat to boots

£125 buy a GPS unit so rangers can monitor wild gorillas

Read the full report

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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