Three Baby Chimpanzees Being Held for Ransom After Being Stolen From Wildlife Sanctuary

by Alex Falls
Yannick Tylle / Getty

Three baby chimpanzees were abducted from an animal sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sanctuary said it is facing ransom demands for money after the animals were stolen.

The incident reportedly happened on Sept. 9 around 3 a.m. when kidnappers broke into the sanctuary and took the animals. Hours later, the abductors reportedly sent the owners messages and videos demanding money for the chimpanzees’ return.

Roxanne and Franck Chantereau, founders and heads of the Jeunes Animaux Confisqués au Katanga (JACK) sanctuary, said they received videos of the animals just nearly three weeks ago, as reported by The New York Times.

JACK shared one of the videos they received from the kidnappers. In the video, the young chimpanzees are seen in an undisclosed location littered with debris and turned-over furniture. The horrible video also shows one of the chimps had his arms tied above his head.

The ransomers said if their demands are not meant, they threatened to decapitate one of the animals and then sell the two others to Chinese traffickers unless a large cash sum was paid. They even threatened the lives of Roxanne Chantereau and their two children according to the reports.

“They told us that they had planned to kidnap my children because they were supposed to come here on vacation. But they didn’t come so the kidnappers took these three babies hostage and demanded a large amount of ransom from us,” Mr. Chantereau said to CNN.

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The kidnappers claimed to have drugged the chimps and threatened to hurt them if the ransom wasn’t paid. However, Mr. Chantereau said that it is “impossible” for the sanctuary to pay the money.

“Not only do we not have the money, but you need to understand that if we go their way, they could very well do it again in two months, and also we have no guarantee that they will return the baby to us,” he said. 

Mr. Chantereau said, “This is the first time in the world that baby apes were kidnapped for ransom.” He’s also concerned that if he gives in to the kidnappers’ demands then it would open the door to further abductions.

“There are 23 sanctuaries across the continent doing this. If we pay the ransom, it could set a precedent and it could give ideas to others, so we must be extremely vigilant,” he said.

The three chimps, called Hussain, Monga, and César, were themselves rescued from trafficking earlier in their lives. “They went through hell. Their families were killed. They were sold, transported, and extensive financial resources were put forward to repatriate them,” Mr. Chantereau told the French outlet France Info.

This isn’t the first time the Chantereaus and their sanctuary have faced threats. For every young chimp captured, eight to 10 adults are killed by poachers. That’s about 3,000 to 5,000 chimps killed every year in the DRC alone. The country has worked to crack down on illegal animal trafficking amidst these threats.