A new species was welcomed to Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre this week with the arrival of Benny & Nia, a pair of white-throated guenons. White-throated guenons are incredibly rare, native only to small regions of the rainforests in Benin and West Nigeria and do not exist anywhere outside of their native countries, other than Monkey World. The wild population has decreased by 50% over the last 30 years, due to hunting & deforestation and are listed as a species vulnerable to extinction. Dr Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World, travelled to Beirut to work with Animals Lebanon and the Lebanese authorities who confiscated the monkeys that had been smuggled into Lebanon via a passenger flight from Accra, Ghana into Beirut. Lebanese authorities have been cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade and joined CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) in 2013. Despite Lebanon being a relatively new member state, it has already gone some way to protect endangered species smuggled into the country, with animal protection legislation drafted and police enforcing the treaty. Benny & Nia were seized at Beirut airport and handed over to Animals Lebanon to care for until arrangements could be made to move them to Monkey World for specialist care and rehabilitation.
The black market trade in primates is a global problem that threatens many different species of monkey and ape. It is a brutal trade where adult animals are shot, and eaten as bushmeat, while youngsters are taken out of the tropical forests they come from often to be smuggled overseas for the illegal pet trade or entertainment industry. It is a bloody and cruel trade that is driving many endangered species to the brink of extinction.
Monkey World has a history working with the Lebanese government – in 2011 an illegal chimpanzee, Kiki, was confiscated from a residential area in Beirut and Dr Cronin and her team made special arrangements to transport the endangered ape back to the Dorset sanctuary where she lives with 18 other rescued chimpanzees.
Dr Cronin said “I am pleased that Monkey World was able to assist the Lebanese government and Animals Lebanon to rescue and rehabilitate these incredibly rare monkeys. Monkey World exists to assist governments around the globe to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild. Lebanese authorities are putting a lot of effort into protecting endangered species, and organisations such as Monkey World and Animals Lebanon are here to support their efforts by caring for the refugees of the black market trade. As tragic as their story is, Benny & Nia are the lucky ones that have survived and made it to a safe home. Most die during the hunt or when they are torn away from their families and forest homes to be smuggled across the globe. We cannot give them their natural lives back again, but I am pleased to see that they are enjoying their new home and enclosure and their sad story will hopefully remind people about how important it is to protect endangered species and the habitats which they come from.”
The guenons were flown back to Monkey World in Dorset, courtesy of Middle Eastern Airlines, under the care of Dr Cronin, and have been released into a new enclosure. The pair are young and following their harrowing ordeal need to gain weight and get physically fit again but all signs are good that Benny & Nia the white-throated guenons will make a full recovery.