At a tender age, they witness their entire family being shot. They are then forced into a tiny box and transported for days without food or water out of their jungle home, to an alien environment. Here, they are forced to perform unnatural acts like rollerblading, dress-up and even smoking – acts that are deemed entertaining to some humans. After they perform, they are shut back into a cold, dark box to await the next paying audience.
This is the life of so many young chimpanzees, snatched from the wild to fuel the illegal trade in great apes. This is decimating wild populations. This is slavery of our closest relatives.
The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary is not only a rescue centre, but also a platform we use to raise awareness on the plight of chimpanzees in the wild. Inadequate information on the illegal trafficking of great apes has hindered efforts to enforce international laws designed to stop the trade, as well as limited the effects of active campaigns and advocacy.
Even if chimpanzees are lucky enough to be rescued, lack of space in many PASA-approved sanctuaries is a challenge, leaving many without a sanctuary to go to.
For these reasons, the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary has secured a three-year grant (May 2014-May 2017) to initiate the Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS) that is aimed at:
- Developing a better understanding of the illegal trade in great apes
- Ensuring appropriate dissemination of accurate information pertaining to specific instances of illegally trafficked apes
- Repatriating illegally obtained apes to African sanctuaries with adequate space, and
- Campaigning for current international agreements to be enforced and adhered to.
PEGAS aims to understand and document the illegal trade in great apes, map trade routes and identify individuals involved as well as use information emanating from the project to create a platform to lobby for enhanced law enforcement. Where opportunities exist to repatriate illegally exported chimpanzees to Africa, PEGAS will work with Ol Pejeta Conservancy and PASA to achieve this.