Kidnappers who snatched three young chimpanzees from an African sanctuary have sent ‘proof of life’ videos to support their six-figure ransom demand in what is believed to be the first-ever hostage situation involving apes.
Videos circulated on social media showed one of the young chimps, a five-year-old named Monga, with her arms tied above her head in a barren room, The Times newspaper in the UK reported on Friday. The other two young chimps – named Hussein and César – could be seen scampering to hide from their captors.
The three chimps – aged between two and five – were snatched in the middle of the night from the JACK Primate Rehabilitation Center sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month. The gang has repeatedly sent messages demanding a six-figure ransom and is threatening to kill them unless a ransom is paid.
The gang says that they will decapitate the animals and send their heads back to the sanctuary if they do not get the money.
“It is a nightmare… it was such a disaster,” the center’s founder Franck Chantereau told the environmental outlet Mongabay. “We have faced a lot of challenges for 18 years now. But we have never experienced anything like this: the kidnapping of apes.”
JACK is one of three ape sanctuaries in the Central African country.
It is home to around 40 chimpanzees and other primates, such as the endangered golden-bellied mangabey. The organization is working with law enforcement agencies to rescue the chimps.
Adams Cassinga, from ConservCongo, a Congolese NGO that investigates wildlife crimes, told reporters that it might be the first kidnapping of an ape in the world.
“This is very rare, this is the first time, not just in Africa but the world, that I am hearing of this. We have heard [of] people using wildlife as a shield or as a political or social agenda. This is the first time I have heard of people literally kidnapping animals so that they can ask for money,” he said.