BBC journalists, posing as prospective buyers, infiltrate a global baby chimpanzee trafficking ring to discover how criminals are flouting international law.
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Baby chimpanzees, just a few months old.
Seized from the jungles of Africa to be sold as pets.
It's a shocking and illegal trade.
Animals that are our closest relatives of the natural world
are suffering terrible losses.
To get one infant chimpanzees out of the jungle, all of the adults
and its family have to be killed and as many
as ten adults slaughtered.
We infiltrate an animal smuggling network that spans the globe.
During a year-long investigation we went undercover.
Are you still able to follow?
We discovered that there is far more trafficking
than the authorities suspect.
You may find some of the scenes in this film disturbing,
as we reveal the secret trade in baby chimps.
Our journey into an underworld of animal smuggling began in Cairo.
For centuries, Egypt has been one of the world's
great trading centres.
Posing as buyers and filming secretly, we found two dealers
who said they could get us baby chimpanzees.
They sent us videos of the animals they had ready.
Pitiful sights of infants, recently captured and now destined
to be pets or kept in private zoos in the Gulf states and Asia.
Once they grow too big and strong...?
that they are
that they are killed
that they are killed or
that they are killed or dumped.
It was in Cairo that we learned how the smugglers operate.
There is an international treaty to stop the trafficking of rare
wildlife, but for the right money, you can obtain one
of its official export permits.
And one dealer claimed he could get hold of a permit allowing us
to export chimps.
We paid him a deposit and he checked it in his pet store.
Publicly he deals in birds, secretly he was offering much more.
Two weeks later, we met him to collect the permit.
And here it is.
An official export document falsely filled in and illegally obtained.
It seemed to be signed and stamped by an official
in the government of Jordan.
And it shows our address which was fake, a basic internet
search would have shown that.
We asked Khalid about the chimpanzees themselves
and what state they would be in when they reached our clients.
What followed was a down payment for the chimps.
The money came from a Swiss wildlife activist who campaigns
against the trafficking of chimpanzees.
And these were the animals we were being offered.
Khalid told us they were ready for shipping, but then
something went wrong.
Khalid got nervous and the deal was suddenly off.
He was worried about being exposed.
We assumed that our investigation was dead.
But we weren't going to give up, our focus shifted
from the Middle East to West Africa, to Ivory Coast.
One step closer to the source of the illegal trade.
The Egyptian dealers had always said that the chimpanzees would be flown
out of here.
In the end that never happened.
Then, right here, we had a breakthrough.
Our research led us to an animal trader.
His Facebook page reveals a boastful personality.
It turned out that he had been supplying the Egyptians we have
been talking to.
This is the box.
In a video he sent us, he shows a crate, specially designed
for wildlife smuggling.
Animals that are allowed to be exported act as a cover
for a chimpanzee hidden inside.
He claimed that he could also get us the export permit.
We were pretending to be an Indonesian pet trader
The dealer said he was based in Guinea but would meet
us in Abidjan.
He sent us pictures showing that he had chimpanzees.
Filmed secretly, he told our undercover colleague how
he could provide us with chimps.
We told him that we needed a permit first and he quickly got us one
which was stamped National Parks of Liberia.
He then told us what baby chimpanzees would cost and he showed
us videos to prove that he could deliver.
He handed over the permit he had obtained for us.
He made this look almost routine.
This is where the meeting took place and where there is rather flimsy
looking but important document was handed over.
It is in effect a passport allowing us to export live chimpanzees.
We should never have been able to get hold of it.
The whole point of the international permit system is to try and stop
the trade in endangered animals but what this reveals is how easily
you can get around that.
Getting the paperwork sorted was one thing,
but then came an agonising wait for the deal itself.
Keeping watch for the next message and then...
This video confirmed that he had a chimpanzee ready for export.
The recording used our fake name and the correct date.
He even showed his face on camera as he had in earlier videos,
apparently not worried about incriminating himself.
Our undercover team got ready to see the chimp for themselves.
But we weren't going into this alone.
We briefed Interpol and the police in Ivory Coast
and they prepared a sting.
Our undercover journalist was going to meet him to see
the animal before confirming the deal and we were following.
We're now on our way and our undercover colleague
is in a car in front of us and he is following the dealer
in a taxi who is meant to be leading him to his house
where the chimpanzees are.
We are in convoy with the police and we are told it will be about 30
minutes until we get there.
This was the pivotal moment in the investigation
and it was incredibly tense.
If we got too close, we risked being seen.
But too far and we would lose them.
A tracking device helped to guide us along a highway.
A call from our undercover team ahead of us.
We were leaving the highway and heading into a maze of dusty
streets on the edge of Abidjan.
We were obviously getting closer.
Using a hidden camera, our undercover colleague
filmed his arrival at the dealer 's house and we were not far behind.
Our colleague took pictures.
His story was that he needed to send proof to a wealthy
buyer in Indonesia.
Then he pretended to ring his client.
In fact, this was the signal for the police raid to begin.
Initially, there was confusion.
The chimpanzee had been hidden.
And everyone there denied knowing anything about it.
And the dealer had also vanished.
Detectives charged through the neighbourhood.
They called on local people to help.
Minutes later, police got their man.
They've got him.
The dealer had been caught.
One minute he had been discussing a deal that would have earned him
tens of thousands of dollars, the next, he was under arrest.
The police then focused on his family's house.
They weren't taking any chances, everyone was ordered to the ground.
And the search led them to a small room where they found a crate
holding the chimpanzee.
So the police had just made all of these arrests.
It is pretty edgy here, the atmosphere, and it is all
about this - a baby chimpanzee taken the jungle.
The real tragedy of this trade is that to get one infant chimpanzee
out of the jungle, all of the adults in its family have to be killed.
That's as many as ten adults slaughtered just to get one chimp
here ready for trade.
We'd been advised not to touch the chimp until a vet
had checked him.
So for a few agonising moments, he was all alone.
The police then made a major discovery.
That this house was a key centre for chimpanzee trafficking.
For years, when investigators have been looking for clues
about smuggled chimpanzees, they had often seen these blue tiles
in the background of the videos offered by the traders.
This is it, what everyone calls the blue room,
it is like a holding centre for animals on their way
to be trafficked abroad.
The chimpanzee was taken away, into the care of wildlife officials.
A crowd gathered outside the house.
The cops are getting worried.
Many here were beginning to take the side of the men
The atmosphere was becoming more tense.
The police told us that we all had to go.
In the back of a car, a baby chimp watched nervously.
A new chapter in its short life was about to begin.
At the Interpol headquarters in Abidjan, the questioning began.
The dealer faced charges relating to wildlife trafficking.
So did his uncle, Mohamed.
The chimpanzee was yet again searching for reassurance.
He clambered towards the only people he knew.
The men who had been holding him captive.
The police colonel in charge of the operation was clear about why
the trafficking had to be stopped.
The dealers' mobile phones, a potential treasure trove
of information about how the smuggling worked
and who was involved.
After the raid, the action moved here to Lyon, in the south
of France, and the headquarters of Interpol.
Those mobile phones and laptops were analysed and an investigation
which had started into one dealer in one country suddenly broadened.
His voice? Perfect.
You have got him.
The detectives quickly found evidence of global connections.
From the hunters in the jungles, to the middleman, to corrupt
officials and ultimately to the buyers.
This was the starting point for dismantling
an international criminal network.
The BBC was given access to this material.
It revealed a history of baby chimpanzees being kept in this small
blue room, all heading for a life of captivity abroad.
On the dealer's mobile phone, a video of a chimpanzee
destined for China.
The tiny animal can't have been more than a few weeks old.
And on his computer, more CITES permits for chimps
and other animals set to be traded between countries as distant
as China and South Africa, Nepal and Congo.
We put this to the head of the CITES convention.
We showed him the two permits that we'd managed to get.
Surely, it shouldn't be so easy to get hold of the permits that
allow you illegally to export animals, including chimpanzees?
So, people steal permits.
People photocopy permits.
If you think, we can, in 2016, people can make false currency.
Think of all of the security that goes around creating a British
currency or a US currency.
So these permits aren't secure then?
Neither is anybody's currency, because people who are savvy can
make counterfeits, they make counterfeit passports.
Isn't that admitting defeat in some way?
It's nputting it in context.
That if people are criminally minded and they can see a profit
in something, they will do what they can to manipulate that
system to their advantage.
Whether it is a passport, a currency, drivers license
or a CITES permit.
Exploiting that weakness was the dealer.
And it turns out that he comes from a family involved
in animal trafficking.
His brother operates from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was named by CITES for illegally trading in endangered birds.
And his father also seemed to be involved.
His bank account was known to be used for payments,
including ours, allowing the lucrative trafficking
For Interpol, to tackle this is a massive undertaking.
And until now, governments have wanted it to focus on other
threats to wildlife.
Like the smuggling of ivory and rhino horn.
At the moment, chimpanzees are not a priority.
Without the funding, we cannot do anything.
But what we're trying to become is more intelligence led so we start
looking at what the threats are and what law
enforcement needs to address in order to maintain
a level of security.
So, primates, unfortunately, our information holdings is not
as strong as it could be.
Back in West Africa, after a bewildering day,
the tiny chimp was hungry.
But now safe at the zoo in Abidjan.
The keepers named him.
He was most relaxed when clinging to someone.
A first look at a chimpanzee family.
Later, they may live together.
Or he will be found a home in a sanctuary.
The material from our investigation has been given to the authorities.
The dealer and his uncle are awaiting trial.
The trade will not be stopped overnight,
but this one network at least is now out of action.
Hello, good morning.
Things are calming down a bit for this weekend.
Entire families of adult chimpanzees are being slaughtered by poachers in Africa in order to capture newborn chimps to sell as pets in the Middle East and Asia. During a year-long undercover investigation, BBC journalists posing as prospective buyers infiltrate a global baby chimpanzee trafficking ring and discover how criminals are flouting international law to trade in this endangered species.