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Reblog: Undercover investigation reveals chimps being sold as pets for £10,000

At the beginning of this month I came across this poignant and in-depth exploration of an undercover operation that revealed the true extent of chimp trafficking. An absolutely devastating industry concerning a species listed as Appendix 1 by CITES, which mass media is only just gaining insight to. Written by and originally featured on a blog called According to Jess

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According to Jess

BBC News investigation has uncovered a huge section of the wildlife trafficking business  that sells baby chimpanzees as pets for £10,000, after their families are shot dead in front of them.

The well-known West African hub for wildlife trafficking, which is known as the “blue room” was uncovered by the BBC’s 12 month investigation, and reveals how the tiny chimps are taken from the wild to be sold as pets. Chimpanzees are in high demand as pets or zoo performers across many countries. Baby chimpanzees are sold to wealthy homeowners for a minimum of around £10,000, although it can be a lot more.

The investigation revealed that poachers would shoot as many of the adults in a family as they could to prevent the young chimpanzees from resisting capture. This also meant that the poachers could sell the older chimps as bushmeat. This method means that for every one baby that…

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Volunteering with the Zambia Primate Project — Guest post by Tom Hicks

The Zambia Primate Project is one of the operations run and sponsored by the Born Free Foundation. Based in the Kafue National Park, the project focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction of Vervet monkeys and Yellow baboons throughout Zambia.

The project is run by Cosmos Mumba, an immensely talented Zambian conservationist (see video below). In 2015 he was nominated for the 2015 African Conservationist of the Year award by the Tusk Trust. Cosmas is a leading light in the conservation of primates and works very closely with Dr Cheryl Mvula from the Born Free Foundation.

Together, the Zambia Primate Project and the Born Free Foundation work tirelessly to conserve both the habitat of the vervet and baboons, and the wild populations.

They seek to achieve this through education, in-situ work and a welfare programme for those primates in need of intervention and rescue. In August 2016, I was granted the remarkable opportunity to work in-situ at the release site in the Kafue National Park, where the team work closely with Game Rangers International.

I arrived at Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and was greeted by Cosmos, who was waiting to take me to Lilayi. This is the location of Game Rangers International’s elephant orphanage. The orphanage is now also a refuge for rescued and confiscated pangolins, whose population has dramatically decreased over past years. They are always looking for volunteers and donations, so I would encourage anyone to find out more about there work by clicking here.

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The release camp in the Kafue National Park

Cosmos and I then set off on the 4-hour drive west to Kafue, where I would be staying at the release camp. My eyes were opened to the work and commitment exuded by the team, made up of Cosmos, Mathew, Dalisou and Caribou. They live in camp for most the year.

We visited the release site of a troop of Vervet monkeys who were reintroduced into the wild in February 2016. Each individual monkey has a story to tell, sadly usually of tragedy. They are rescued, rehabilitated and reintroduced back into the wild.

The team can recognise individuals within the troop by name. Immediately I was inspected by the lead males of the troop, grunting and softly barking while they all circled me. Cosmos and his team found this very amusing, as did I; it’s something that must happen to every volunteer. I felt as if the troop were sizing me up and deciding whether or not they liked me.

With introductions out the way, I was allocated Blacky to observe; one of the adult females in our focal studies. This formed the bulk of my job for the month. I would monitor individuals in the troop and note each minute what behaviour they were performing. This meant we could gather enough data to allows us to track individuals progress and identify any health issues.

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Working with the team at Kafue

The process of rehabilitation is often very hands on, as the primates being treated are usually in poor health — both mentally and physically. This, in turn, builds an exceptionally strong bond between the team and the troop.

Although this could lead to problems when it comes to encouraging the troop to evolve and become completely independent; the operation here is conducted to the highest degree of professionalism, and no such issues were evident.

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The team’s bond with the Vervets is extremely strong. Cosmos personally views them as his family. This was first demonstrated to me upon my encounter with Mysozyo, who is an adult female.

She was rescued from terrible conditions: chained outside a shop and used as a status symbol.

She was in extremely poor health when Cosmos first met her, and he cared for her through rehabilitation and reintroduction with the troop.

When I first saw her, however, she wasn’t alone. Mysozyo had mated earlier in the year with one of the lead males in the troop and had given birth to a truly “born free” infant, which Cosmos named Ndiase, meaning Gift.

This marked a huge step for the troop as it shows they are capable of wild natural behaviour.

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Image title: Born Free, Photographer: Tom Hicks

Now that I have returned from my time in Zambia, I have had time to reflect on just how impressive and successful the whole operation is.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the team; as an aspiring conservationist, I feel I have learnt an infinite amount from actually working with the team on the ground, rather than simply learning the theory behind it.

I would encourage anyone to get involved with charitable organisations such as these, whether it be donating your time, or as a beneficiary. It is hugely rewarding, and sadly still very much needed.

My connection with the troop and the team is one that I treasure immensely; it has inspired me to train to run the London Marathon in support of Born Free Foundation later this year — if you’d like, you can sponsor me here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Tom-Hicks3

Finally, to Game Rangers International, Born Free Foundation and the Zambia Primate Project, I can only say thank you for the opportunity. I feel incredibly grateful for the immense benefit I have gained from the experience and education you offered me. I sincerely hope to take you up on the offer to work together again.

If you would like to enquire about the chance to work with the Zambia Primate Project then find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ZambiaPrimateProject

Or through the Born Free Foundations website: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/primates/campaign-action/zambian-primate-project/
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TigerTime now — Guest post by Christopher Marsh

TigerTime now is a campaign established by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and it is a key player among charities fighting to protect and save tigers in the wild. The campaign involves raising awareness and funds — with the help of events, fundraising auctions, education programmes, animal adoption packages and an ever-growing online presence — highlighting the key issues that need to be tackled.

At the centre of the campaign is the aim to fund conservation projects around the world, most notably in Russia, India and Thailand and to urgently ban the illegal trade of tigers; their bones; skins and body parts.

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It’s main website, which contains vital information and education tools, is tigertime.info and is managed by Vicky Flynn, a passionate advocate for tigers.

As one of its many official supporters, my role is to lend my voice to the campaign; raising awareness of its cause, and contributing by raising funds to help its mission in preventing the rapid decline of the species and ensuring that the tiger does not face extinction at the hands of those who seek to make profit from tiger parts or by using these endangered animals for entertainment, particularly for tourism ventures.

The exploitation of tigers for tourism purposes is far-reaching, including anything from circuses to the ‘selfie’ culture; a running trend of putting these animals under poor conditions through which they can be forced into use as props for tourists and photos.

The campaign is on a mission to put a stop to these crimes against the tiger.

TigerTime now conservation projects also look to successfully bring these animals out of danger; relocating them back into the wild, or housing them in sanctuaries, where they will be safer and out of harm’s way from hunters and profiteers.

I loved tigers growing up as a kid, and I’ve always had a fascination with nature and animals, stemming from watching David Attenborough documentaries in complete awe, trips to zoos or coming across wildlife out and about. But my love for the tiger truly came to fruition once I became more aware of humanity’s affect on them, and becoming more informed about how some people in the world treat them as nothing more than trophies or trade deals.

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This really startled me and I just could not fathom how, in a world of such beauty, awe and wonder, humans could dismantle their existence and bring themselves to kill such fiercely majestic, wonderous creatures. It was heartbreaking and it hit me hard, and so I knew that I had to do something about it, no matter what means I had to do so. This truly encouraged me to seek out others who shared the same passion.

I came across TigerTime now and I reached out to them so that I too could be involved and contribute to their mission by any means necessary. My recent involvement includes raising funds through pieces of artwork, where TigerTime supporters, including myself, were tasked to create a piece of art to be auctioned off for their annual ‘Stars and Stripes’ charity auction; which took place both online and at the Mall Galleries in London.

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The Water Roamer, TigerTime charitable auction submission by Christopher Marsh

My further involvement and plans at this present time will include more fundraising and being a continued voice for the campaign. I urge anyone with an equal passion for animals to join our campaign in saving the tiger from extinction by signing up here. For me, a world where tigers do not exist, where they are taught only as an extinct animal existing only in pictures, is incomprehensible.

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Guest post on Scarphelia – passing on the volunteer spirit

Last week I wrote a guest blog post for an amazing lifestyle and philosophy blog I follow, called Scarphelia. As it’s in keeping with the attitudes and thoughts I try to share on this blog, I thought I’d re-post it on here too. I hope some of you can relate!

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Ambition & Adventure – Guest Post #1


by Kate Snowdon

‘There are two things in life that drive me. Ambition and adventure.

It’s ambition that gets me up in the morning; that’s made me set so many career goals, and that’s led to me achieving exactly what I set out to achieve at school, college, uni and (hopefully) thereafter.

But adventure is like my secret fix.

For someone so sensible and academic, admitting that I’m addicted to an adrenaline rush, to the point of having found myself jumping from planes, cage diving with great white sharks, and throwing myself from buildings, bridges and platforms of all kinds (including the world’s highest commercial bungee jump) and even having more than 15 hours in a tattoo shop chair, is usually a bit of a surprise to people.

I feel alive in my work and love what I do, but I just feel MORE alive when I’m challenging conventions and boundaries. Like I’m enjoying a new level of consciousness.

I think it’s that new state of consciousness – like another layer to life – that I also feel I’m entering when I’m travelling. I’m a collector of countries and experiences and a meeter of people: and that thrills me. New people and new places are amazing.

From the Spanish lady in a hostel in NZ, that had had to have her leg reattached (via 80 operations) after a motorbike accident; or the man in South Africa who’d just got back from volunteering as an engineer in Afghanistan after both his parents died suddenly in unrelated incidents; to the Dutch life coach, whom I had many fire-side conversations with as we travelled with another through the endless red sands of the Australian outback – the reasons that people find themselves with nothing but a rucksack and a compass are always fascinating.

One of my favourite kinds of people to meet, are volunteers and missionaries.

Now, I am in no way a religious person – after years of being agnostic I eventually moved over to being an atheist – and I don’t really feel any huge sense of moral duty (or subsequent righteous glory) but I just get one of my adrenaline rushes from throwing everyday life and conventions to the wind, to do something else – for the love of it. And those like-minded people I meet along the way often have really spiritual or philosophical personality types.

Coming from your average lower middle class ‘find a way to “get by” off of your own back and make sacrifices to do so’ kind of family, I’ve always resented the idea of money a little bit. The idea that paper or cheap metal can make the difference between living your dreams and merely surviving (or worse, not surviving.), so the freedom and liberation that comes from ignoring… no, rejecting… money in my ‘different layer of consciousness’ is awesome.

I think that’s why I love to travel to far away places and work for free and ‘for a greater cause’ – because that’s just where I’m drawn to when I ignore every boundary and convention of life’s unwritten rules.

It’s led me to singing nursery rhymes in a Jamaican school, watching a lion on an operating table, climbing a mountain, buying masses of thrift store toys for disabled children, bottle-feeding baby elephants, educating poverty-stricken communities in an ‘AIDs Awareness tent’, giving away all of my socks (and half a ruck sack of clothes to use for materials) to make sock puppets at an orphanage, riding on the roof of a lorry and pouring in buckets of water onto over-heated eland (big massive antelope) and for four very long hours; counting cockatoo against the Aussie skyline.

The strangest conclusion I’ve come to from these hair-raising, people-meeting, volunteer expeditions is the theory that good deeds are passed on.

That’s not me claiming to have invented karma; this is something different. The idea that one good, out of the ordinary deed can inspire someone else to carry out another. Imagine, for example, the aforementioned lady from the motorbike crash – if she’s volunteering in at a school, because the ambulance drivers that saved her life were volunteers and she feels inspired, then maybe one of the school children would remember her kindness, and go on to volunteer at a soup kitchen. If one of those homeless people turns their life around; they may go on to volunteer with anti-social or ‘at risk’ teenagers, and so on.

I’m not on some mission to save the world. But imagine if by some ‘moral’ chain reaction, we just made it a little better.’

– Kate Snowdon

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For me, ever since I met her, Kate has been a constant inspiration, an enterprising mentor and moreover an idol of mine. After meeting at the start of this year, I couldn’t have possibly asked for anyone greater to help steer me on the right path and the path to my future.
I was honoured to have the opportunity to present the Blogging Masterclass alongside her in March, and even more honoured to have her as my first silver-grid guest blogger on Scarphelia.
I can only hope one day I follow in her footsteps and can create a just as impressive impact on the world – as you can see, she certainly has the right idea!
Scarlet-Ophelia.