August 10, 2022

Global Law Alliance Works to Keep Chimpanzees Safe from Exploitation

A groundbreaking collaborative program is helping chimpanzees in West Africa.
  • A female chimpanzee with a baby on mangrove trees. Republic of the Congo. Conkouati-Douli Reserve. 
    iStockphoto

Chimpanzees suffer cruel fates at the hands of humans. Habitat destruction from the massive logging of their forest, human encroachment, and conversion of forest areas are a few of the sources of significant harm to chimpanzees, but humans also harm chimpanzees in more direct ways.

Humans hunt chimpanzees for bushmeat. This thriving global trade in chimpanzees, some of it legal and some illegal, has far-reaching impacts. Chimpanzees are not only killed for meat, but when a mom or adult chimp is captured and leaves behind a baby, those baby chimps are captured alive, often suffering cruel, lifelong fates as pets. It is estimated that a single infant or juvenile chimpanzee can be worth as much as $70,000. In many cases, these baby chimps are trafficked by criminal syndicates as part of the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. These syndicates operate across countries throughout chimpanzees’ range in West Africa.

The Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment (GLA) is honored to participate in a groundbreaking program seeking to disrupt this trade by addressing the many different facets of it holistically—The Action for Chimpanzees Initiative. The program’s goal is to reduce the poaching and trafficking of chimpanzees originating from or transiting through West Africa. By focusing on chimpanzees – one of the species most sought after by wildlife crime syndicates in this region – the program builds regional capacity to tackle wildlife crime in general and disrupts a wide network of wildlife crime activities.

The Action for Chimpanzees Initiative, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), is one of the first civil society-government partnerships where front-line sanctuaries and conservation organizations take the lead in combating chimpanzee poaching and the broader illegal wildlife trade. Partners in this program include: Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (Sierra Leone); Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP – Liberia); Project Primates Chimpanzee Conservation Center (Guinea); Akatia (Côte D’Ivoire); and Comoé Chimpanzee Conservation Project (Côte D’Ivoire).

GLA, along with another organization, Legal Atlas, are providing a range of legal support services to these organizations and partner countries. GLA works with legislative and judiciary entities to build a legal system that is equal parts fair and tough for wildlife offenders. Training judiciary officials and prosecutors is a key element of the program. GLA’s objective is to ensure that effective laws are enforced and that prosecutors in each country can appropriately prosecute and sentence wildlife crime perpetrators, leading to an increase in the number of successful prosecutions in each country.

“Challenging legal frameworks and an underappreciation for the gravity of wildlife crime can impede prosecutorial action and convictions,” said Erica Lyman, Clinical Professor and GLA Director. “Specialized training equips prosecutors and judges to identify and overcome common pitfalls, including evidentiary challenges and charging barriers. Such training helps to create a justice system that holds traffickers accountable and respects human rights.”

 

The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter, with the most comprehensive animal law curriculum offered anywhere. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers two advanced legal degrees in animal law (an LLM degree and a Master of Studies degree for non-lawyers, both degrees are offered in person and online) and multiple animal law clinics and experiential learning opportunities. In 2020, CALS launched the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment, as champions for wild animals and wild spaces, in collaboration with Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environmental Law Program. CALS is a fully self-funded nonprofit organization operating under the Lewis & Clark College 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and is only able to provide these educational opportunities through donations and grants.