The Chimp Smugglers Our World


The Chimp Smugglers

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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Transcript


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Baby chimpanzees, just a few months old.

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Seized from the jungles of Africa to be sold as pets.

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It's a shocking and illegal trade.

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Animals that are our closest relatives of the natural world

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are suffering terrible losses.

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To get one infant chimpanzees out of the jungle, all of the adults

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and its family have to be killed and as many

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as ten adults slaughtered.

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We infiltrate an animal smuggling network that spans the globe.

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During a year-long investigation we went undercover.

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Two months?

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Are you still able to follow?

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We discovered that there is far more trafficking

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than the authorities suspect.

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is

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You may find some of the scenes in this film disturbing,

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as we reveal the secret trade in baby chimps.

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Our journey into an underworld of animal smuggling began in Cairo.

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For centuries, Egypt has been one of the world's

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great trading centres.

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Ground floor.

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Going up.

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Posing as buyers and filming secretly, we found two dealers

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who said they could get us baby chimpanzees.

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They sent us videos of the animals they had ready.

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Pitiful sights of infants, recently captured and now destined

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to be pets or kept in private zoos in the Gulf states and Asia.

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Once they grow too big and strong...?

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that

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that they are

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that they are killed

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that they are killed or

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that they are killed or dumped.

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It was in Cairo that we learned how the smugglers operate.

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There is an international treaty to stop the trafficking of rare

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wildlife, but for the right money, you can obtain one

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of its official export permits.

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And one dealer claimed he could get hold of a permit allowing us

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to export chimps.

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We paid him a deposit and he checked it in his pet store.

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Publicly he deals in birds, secretly he was offering much more.

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Two weeks later, we met him to collect the permit.

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And here it is.

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An official export document falsely filled in and illegally obtained.

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It seemed to be signed and stamped by an official

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in the government of Jordan.

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And it shows our address which was fake, a basic internet

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search would have shown that.

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We asked Khalid about the chimpanzees themselves

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and what state they would be in when they reached our clients.

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What followed was a down payment for the chimps.

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The money came from a Swiss wildlife activist who campaigns

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against the trafficking of chimpanzees.

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Price?

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$20,000 each.

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And these were the animals we were being offered.

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Khalid told us they were ready for shipping, but then

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something went wrong.

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Khalid got nervous and the deal was suddenly off.

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He was worried about being exposed.

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We assumed that our investigation was dead.

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But we weren't going to give up, our focus shifted

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from the Middle East to West Africa, to Ivory Coast.

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One step closer to the source of the illegal trade.

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The Egyptian dealers had always said that the chimpanzees would be flown

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out of here.

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In the end that never happened.

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Then, right here, we had a breakthrough.

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Our research led us to an animal trader.

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His Facebook page reveals a boastful personality.

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It turned out that he had been supplying the Egyptians we have

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been talking to.

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This is the box.

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You see.

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In a video he sent us, he shows a crate, specially designed

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for wildlife smuggling.

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Animals that are allowed to be exported act as a cover

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for a chimpanzee hidden inside.

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He claimed that he could also get us the export permit.

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We were pretending to be an Indonesian pet trader

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called Alex.

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The dealer said he was based in Guinea but would meet

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us in Abidjan.

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He sent us pictures showing that he had chimpanzees.

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Filmed secretly, he told our undercover colleague how

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he could provide us with chimps.

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We told him that we needed a permit first and he quickly got us one

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which was stamped National Parks of Liberia.

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He then told us what baby chimpanzees would cost and he showed

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us videos to prove that he could deliver.

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He handed over the permit he had obtained for us.

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Thank you.

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He made this look almost routine.

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This is where the meeting took place and where there is rather flimsy

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looking but important document was handed over.

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It is in effect a passport allowing us to export live chimpanzees.

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We should never have been able to get hold of it.

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The whole point of the international permit system is to try and stop

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the trade in endangered animals but what this reveals is how easily

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you can get around that.

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Getting the paperwork sorted was one thing,

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but then came an agonising wait for the deal itself.

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Keeping watch for the next message and then...

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This video confirmed that he had a chimpanzee ready for export.

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The recording used our fake name and the correct date.

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He even showed his face on camera as he had in earlier videos,

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apparently not worried about incriminating himself.

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Our undercover team got ready to see the chimp for themselves.

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But we weren't going into this alone.

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We briefed Interpol and the police in Ivory Coast

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and they prepared a sting.

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Our undercover journalist was going to meet him to see

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the animal before confirming the deal and we were following.

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We're now on our way and our undercover colleague

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is in a car in front of us and he is following the dealer

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in a taxi who is meant to be leading him to his house

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where the chimpanzees are.

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We are in convoy with the police and we are told it will be about 30

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minutes until we get there.

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This was the pivotal moment in the investigation

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and it was incredibly tense.

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If we got too close, we risked being seen.

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But too far and we would lose them.

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A tracking device helped to guide us along a highway.

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A call from our undercover team ahead of us.

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We were leaving the highway and heading into a maze of dusty

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streets on the edge of Abidjan.

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We were obviously getting closer.

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Using a hidden camera, our undercover colleague

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filmed his arrival at the dealer 's house and we were not far behind.

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Our colleague took pictures.

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His story was that he needed to send proof to a wealthy

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buyer in Indonesia.

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Then he pretended to ring his client.

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In fact, this was the signal for the police raid to begin.

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Initially, there was confusion.

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The chimpanzee had been hidden.

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And everyone there denied knowing anything about it.

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And the dealer had also vanished.

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Detectives charged through the neighbourhood.

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They called on local people to help.

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Minutes later, police got their man.

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They've got him.

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The dealer had been caught.

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One minute he had been discussing a deal that would have earned him

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tens of thousands of dollars, the next, he was under arrest.

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The police then focused on his family's house.

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They weren't taking any chances, everyone was ordered to the ground.

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And the search led them to a small room where they found a crate

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holding the chimpanzee.

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So the police had just made all of these arrests.

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It is pretty edgy here, the atmosphere, and it is all

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about this - a baby chimpanzee taken the jungle.

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The real tragedy of this trade is that to get one infant chimpanzee

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out of the jungle, all of the adults in its family have to be killed.

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That's as many as ten adults slaughtered just to get one chimp

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here ready for trade.

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We'd been advised not to touch the chimp until a vet

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had checked him.

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So for a few agonising moments, he was all alone.

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The police then made a major discovery.

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That this house was a key centre for chimpanzee trafficking.

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For years, when investigators have been looking for clues

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about smuggled chimpanzees, they had often seen these blue tiles

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in the background of the videos offered by the traders.

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This is it, what everyone calls the blue room,

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it is like a holding centre for animals on their way

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to be trafficked abroad.

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The chimpanzee was taken away, into the care of wildlife officials.

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A crowd gathered outside the house.

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The cops are getting worried.

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Many here were beginning to take the side of the men

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The atmosphere was becoming more tense.

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The police told us that we all had to go.

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In the back of a car, a baby chimp watched nervously.

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A new chapter in its short life was about to begin.

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At the Interpol headquarters in Abidjan, the questioning began.

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The dealer faced charges relating to wildlife trafficking.

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So did his uncle, Mohamed.

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The chimpanzee was yet again searching for reassurance.

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He clambered towards the only people he knew.

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The men who had been holding him captive.

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The police colonel in charge of the operation was clear about why

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the trafficking had to be stopped.

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The dealers' mobile phones, a potential treasure trove

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of information about how the smuggling worked

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and who was involved.

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After the raid, the action moved here to Lyon, in the south

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of France, and the headquarters of Interpol.

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Those mobile phones and laptops were analysed and an investigation

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which had started into one dealer in one country suddenly broadened.

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His voice? Perfect.

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You have got him.

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The detectives quickly found evidence of global connections.

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From the hunters in the jungles, to the middleman, to corrupt

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officials and ultimately to the buyers.

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This was the starting point for dismantling

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an international criminal network.

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The BBC was given access to this material.

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It revealed a history of baby chimpanzees being kept in this small

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blue room, all heading for a life of captivity abroad.

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On the dealer's mobile phone, a video of a chimpanzee

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destined for China.

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The tiny animal can't have been more than a few weeks old.

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And on his computer, more CITES permits for chimps

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and other animals set to be traded between countries as distant

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as China and South Africa, Nepal and Congo.

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We put this to the head of the CITES convention.

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We showed him the two permits that we'd managed to get.

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Surely, it shouldn't be so easy to get hold of the permits that

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allow you illegally to export animals, including chimpanzees?

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Yes.

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So, people steal permits.

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People photocopy permits.

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If you think, we can, in 2016, people can make false currency.

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Think of all of the security that goes around creating a British

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currency or a US currency.

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So these permits aren't secure then?

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Neither is anybody's currency, because people who are savvy can

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make counterfeits, they make counterfeit passports.

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Isn't that admitting defeat in some way?

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Absolutely not.

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It's nputting it in context.

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That if people are criminally minded and they can see a profit

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in something, they will do what they can to manipulate that

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system to their advantage.

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Whether it is a passport, a currency, drivers license

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or a CITES permit.

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Exploiting that weakness was the dealer.

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And it turns out that he comes from a family involved

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in animal trafficking.

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His brother operates from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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He was named by CITES for illegally trading in endangered birds.

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And his father also seemed to be involved.

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His bank account was known to be used for payments,

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including ours, allowing the lucrative trafficking

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to continue.

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For Interpol, to tackle this is a massive undertaking.

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And until now, governments have wanted it to focus on other

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threats to wildlife.

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Like the smuggling of ivory and rhino horn.

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At the moment, chimpanzees are not a priority.

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Without the funding, we cannot do anything.

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But what we're trying to become is more intelligence led so we start

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looking at what the threats are and what law

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enforcement needs to address in order to maintain

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a level of security.

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So, primates, unfortunately, our information holdings is not

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as strong as it could be.

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Back in West Africa, after a bewildering day,

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the tiny chimp was hungry.

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But now safe at the zoo in Abidjan.

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The keepers named him.

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He was most relaxed when clinging to someone.

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A first look at a chimpanzee family.

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Later, they may live together.

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Or he will be found a home in a sanctuary.

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The material from our investigation has been given to the authorities.

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The dealer and his uncle are awaiting trial.

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The trade will not be stopped overnight,

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but this one network at least is now out of action.

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Hello, good morning.

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Things are calming down a bit for this weekend.

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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.