World's first 'ape-nap': Three chimpanzees abducted from wildlife sanctuary in Africa, kidnappers demand six-figure ransom
LUBUMBASHI, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Three young chimpanzees have been kidnapped from a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are being held captive for a six-figure ransom. Franck Chantereau, the founder of the Jack Primate Rehabilitation Centre, said that threats have been made against his family as well but he will not pay the ransom and is working with law enforcement agencies to find the chimpanzees and ensure their safe return.
Considered to be the world's first case of its kind, the chimpanzees, who were aged between two and five years old, were abducted from the 17-acre facility in the southern city of Lubumbashi at around 3 am on September 9, 2022, according to Mongabay. However, it is not clear how the gang managed to abduct them. Since then kidnappers have repeatedly threatened the family of the founder and demanded a ransom, Chantereau said, "It is a nightmare … it was such a disaster. We have faced a lot of challenges for 18 years now. But we have never experienced anything like this: the kidnapping of apes. They also threatened to kidnap my own kids and wife.”
Adams Cassinga, director of ConservCongo which investigates and prosecutes wildlife crimes, told Mongabay, "This is very rare, this is the first time, not just in Africa but the world, that I am hearing of this. We have heard [of] people using wildlife as a shield or as a political or social agenda. This is the first time I have heard of people literally kidnapping animals so that they can ask for money. These criminals have taken the entire wildlife crime to a new level. And it demands that law enforcement agents step up their games as well. There is panic and fear."
The video footage shared by the kidnappers shows two of the orphaned animals, Hussein and Cesar, climbing over furniture, while Monga, a five-year-old female, has her arms tied above her head, as per DailyMail. The report further states that the chimp population in Africa which was one million at the start of the 20th century, has now raised to three million and a baby chimp easily costs over $11K.
Florence Teneau, from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, which provides funds for the sanctuary, said, "These shelters receive a lot of aid and funds from international associations, like ours, and the traffickers take advantage of this because the animals become all the more precious."