Zambia makes its first arrest for keeping illegal primates

For the very first time since the GRI—Zambia Primate Project (ZPP) was established in 2002, and after confiscating over 500 primates held illegally in Zambia since that time, ZPP has witnessed the arrest and prosecution of a man keeping a primate illegally.

It may well be the first successful prosecution in Zambia for illegal primate ownership. Acting on intelligence received from an informer, ZPP confiscated a six-to-eight-month-old male vervet monkey in a compound in the Mpumbu area of the Copperbelt, a notorious hotspot for illegal trafficking of primates.

This young monkey was being kept in a short rope tied tightly around its waist to a tree. He was in poor condition and had no access to water. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) officers from Kalalushi Command escorting ZPP on this confiscation made the arrest when the ‘owner’ could not produce official papers of ownership of the primate, and on Friday morning David Kasongo appeared in the Magistrate’s court in Kalalushi. He was found guilty of illegally possessing a wild animal, and received a six month suspended prison sentence.

Cosmas Mumba, ZPP, with Jonathon. Photo: GRI—Zambia Primate Project
Cosmas Mumba, ZPP, with Jonathon. Photo: GRI—Zambia Primate Project

This arrest and prosecution is sending a strong message to everyone involved in the illegal trading of primates in Zambia. The majority of the primates rescued by ZPP are the victims of the illegal bushmeat trade in Zambia, where the mothers are slaughtered for their meat, and their babies sold into the illegal pet trade.

This rescued vervet will now be rehabilitated back to good health and released back to the wild as part of ZPP’s annual release programme in Kafue National Park. ZPP would like to thank the DNPW Kalalushi officers for their involvement.

ZPP has grown to become one of Africa’s most established and successful primate release programmes. Managed by Game Rangers International and with the ongoing support of the Born Free Foundation, its mission is to rescue and rehabilitate injured, orphaned and illegally held vervet monkeys and yellow baboons for release back into the wild in Zambia. Primate survival rate 12 months post-release currently averages a remarkable 95%.

Game Rangers International are a charity working hard protect Zambia’s threatened wildlife. Love Nature is currently making two films with GRI, focusing on its Elephant Orphanage Project, which is involved in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned elephants back into the wild. For more information, please visit our Make a Difference page.