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Monday, May 18, 2009

chimpanzee dealer jailed in Congo!

A wildlife dealer who tried to sell a chimpanzee in the Republic of Congo has been sentenced to a year in prison and fined 1.1 million Fcfa (USD $2,188), a severe penalty that came about through the dogged work of the Projet Protection des Gorilles (PPG) – Congo and other conservation organizations in the region.

The Brazzaville Court ruled on March 19, 2009, that the dealer had violated Article 49 of the Congolese law, which bans the sale of endangered species in Congo.

The case made headline news in the Congolese newspaper, Les DĂ©pĂȘches de Brazzaville, and was led by the Project to Apply the Law on Fauna (PALF), a consortium that includes PPG-Congo’s parent organization, The Apsinall Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

PPG-Congo is a charter member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), which coordinates activities between primate rescue and rehabilitation centers across Africa.

“The fact that a chimpanzee dealer can not only be arrested and prosecuted but also sentenced to jail for his crimes in Africa is extremely good news,” said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. “For too long, PASA sanctuaries have had to deal with the confiscated chimpanzees and gorillas of the black market, while the illegal traders go free. But the fantastic results won by PALF can serve as an example for the rest of Africa to follow.”

PALF, which has 10 more cases pending in the Congolese courts, works closely with the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), an organization that specializes in wildlife crimes and law enforcement from its base in Cameroon. PALF is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Servce.

The Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy backs PALF’s work.

Said PPG-Congo coordinator Luc Mathot: “We hope this first case against a wildlife dealer in Republic of Congo will help us for the several next ones.”