A journalist for The Mirror has reported that monkeys are being slaughtered and illegally shipped into the UK, being sold as 'dry-meat' in our markets, as demand for 'bush-meat' in the UK soars.
Wild animals have been hunted by rural communities in Africa for thousands of years as a much needed source of food.
But now thousands of monkeys are being killed and smuggled into Britain, Europe and the USA, part of a lucrative international crime racket leaving the West African Chimpanzees critically endangered.
Did you know they are served as a delicacy at British weddings and sold secretly as 'dry-meat' at markets.
Primate scientist Dr Ben Garrod warned: “I can almost guarantee that African bush-meat has been illegally smuggled into a city close to where you are sitting.”
“This trade is not only devastating to wildlife but it also has the potential to be unimaginably dangerous for us too through the spread of serious diseases such as Ebola, as the meat is unsanitary and chimpanzees are very genetically similar to humans.”
The amount of illegal bush-meat seized by the Border Forces has doubled in the past five years.
In 2018/19, 1,149kg was confiscated at ports and airports and in packages, Home Office figures released under Freedom of Information show. That was up from 946kg the previous year and 544kg in 2014/15.
But Professor Garrod warned this is just the tip of the iceberg, as much of the meat confiscated is not recorded before it is incinerated.
He called for DNA testing on meat seized by the Border Force to establish the species and origin to target the problem.
The University of East Anglia Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement called for DNA testing on seized meat to establish the species and origin to target the problem.
He added “Bush-meat is big business".
“Yes, it represents a much needed source of protein for some of their world’s most poorest people but now there is a different side to the problem forming the basis of a lucrative crime phenomenon.”
Rudy arrived at the sanctuary in Liberia just before Christmas 2015. Thought to be around six months old, he was very weak and pale but was nursed back to health.
Another orphan brought to the sanctuary was Winner.
The four-year-old was found close to Liberia’s border with Guinea in 2017.
He was kept in a tiny cage for a year, allowed out just once a week. Winner and Rudy now live with 45 other chimps.
Dr Garrod said: “You can’t just walk into a forest and grab a baby chimp. Babies are hardly worth eating but they are worth thousands of pounds in the pet trade.
“That’s why we see so many orphans - the tragic by-product of the bush-meat trade.”
Although an estimated 500 species of animals are hunted, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees are targeted as due to the time they spend in trees making it easier for them to be shot.
But due to extended childhoods and long periods between births, populations take a long time to recover leaving the West African Chimpanzees now at risk of extinction.
Jenny Desmond, Co-founder of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection set up four years ago, explained how although bush-meat is illegal a mix of minimal penalties, lax borders and culture allows the trade to flourish.
She added: “Here in Liberia, this is the biggest threat to our chimp population".
"The orphans arrive literally shell-shocked with missing fingers from clinging onto their mothers and often with bits of shrapnel in their flesh as a result of the gun shots to the others in the group.”
She told how her job, alongside vet husband Jimmy, is now as much about law enforcement is it as about animal welfare.
“We don’t want to meet these babies. They should be living in the wild with their mothers, not at our sanctuary.
“If we sit back and allow this trade to continue in the near future this majestic species could be wiped out. Protecting them means protecting the biodiversity of the whole of the forest.”