Wild At Life Project

Mission Caita

Illegal Wildlife Trade

Activity status: Ongoing
Area of Activity: Angola

Chimpanzee trafficking is a serious issue that threatens the survival of these highly intelligent and social primates. Chimpanzees are often captured in the wild, separated from their families, and sold into the illegal pet trade or used for entertainment purposes. The demand for chimpanzees is driven by their perceived value as exotic pets or attractions, despite the fact that keeping them in captivity is often cruel and inhumane.

The trafficking of chimpanzees is not only a threat to the species, but it also contributes to the spread of diseases, such as Ebola and HIV, which can spread from primates to humans. Our efforts to combat chimpanzee trafficking include increasing law enforcement efforts, educating the public about the harm caused by the pet trade, and providing alternative livelihoods for those involved in trafficking. It is essential to protect chimpanzees and their habitats to ensure their survival and maintain the delicate balance of our planet’s ecosystems.

Mission Joana and Riquita

In 2017, Wild at Life e.V. found two chimpanzees in a backyard of a restaurant imprisoned in cages for 21 and 16 years respectively – we named them Joana and Riquita. This was a case we couldn’t turn our heads – something needed to be done. The province of Cabinda is politically unstable and as an exclave of Angola, it is remote and hard to reach. So it was going to be a tough one.

Joana
Joana
Riquita
Riquita

It took a lot of work – both on-site and behind the scenes – to secure them safely. The process between governments, import and export Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) papers, health checks, and logistic planning took longer than expected but finally, the chimpanzees were rescued. In partnership with Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), we managed to relocate them to Tchimpounga sanctuary in the Republic of the Congo. For the first time in their lives, they are living in the same enclosure and can now have the company of each other. This was the first rescue operation of its kind in this region.

Joana during transfer
Joana during transfer
Joana and Riquita in quarantine
Joana and Riquita in quarantine

Mission Cristina and Maiombe

In the same restaurant where we found Joana and Riquita, we also found a 6-month-old baby chimpanzee, calling her Cristina. A few days later, during a Maiombe Rainforest patrol, local teams rescued a 7-month-old girl, Maiombe.

For an infant chimpanzee to be abducted, ten from the same family, including the mother, are murdered. The orphan is then sold and ends up as a pet or entertainment animal. Wild at Life e.V. rescues and confiscates these traumatized animals and where they will then go through a long process of rehabilitation. As there is no sanctuary in Angola and setting up is very expensive, Wild at Life e.V. has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with JGI where the primates we rescue will be placed to the Tchimpounga sanctuary for rehabilitaion.

Cristina
Cristina
Maiombe then
Maiombe then
Maiombe now
Maiombe now

Mission Caita

Our team apprehended a car and found a 6-year-old poached chimpanzee tied in horrible conditions. We named her Caita. Poachers struck Caita across her back with an iron pipe, tied her up, and threw her in the trunk of a broken-down car.

Caita when we found her
Caita when we found her

Poachers were going to sell her to the market. It’s unknown exactly how long Caita was held captive with the poachers and what other unsanitary conditions she was exposed to. When we took her to safety, she was traumatized. Nevertheless, she made progress by eating and drinking. However, Caita got her hand caught in a rusty snare and as a result, contracted tetanus and had to have two of her fingers amputated. All the vets could do for Caita was to treat the symptoms and hope that Caita’s body is strong enough to fight the disease.

Caita during operation
Caita during operation
Caita after operation
Caita after operation

Rest in peace, Caita. After 11 days, Caita went into septic shock and passed away surrounded by those who cared for her. She had the best of the best caring for her; fighting for her and with her. Her burial was simple. She caught the attention of many around the world and she will never be forgotten.

Mission Zizi, Zeze, and Kuxie

Wild at Life e.V. discovered three primates kept in rusty cages in a house’s backyard in Cabinda – Zizi, Zeze, and Kuxie. Zeze had suffered a machete wound that left him blind, a bullet lodged in his testicular area, and was severely malnourished. Zizi, malnourished herself, was trying to tend to him.

Zeze
Zeze
Kuxie
Kuxie
Zeze’s health check
Zeze’s health check
Zizi and Zeze arriving at base camp
Zizi and Zeze arriving at base camp

We have gotten approval from the Ministry of Environment to rescue all three and bring them back to the base camp where a long rehabilitation process starts. They were terrified, weak and even though we were scared Zeze might not survive, we never gave up. We managed to bring him back to life and then his journey to our sanctuary begun.

Zizi (left) and Zeze (right)
Zizi (left) and Zeze (right)
Zizi (bottom) and Zeze (top)
Zizi (bottom) and Zeze (top)

The base camp also has Jacka, amongst many others, an infant primate we rescued from a restaurant where he was held as a tourist attraction. We confiscated him swiftly once we found him there.

Jacka
Jacka
Jacka
Jacka

Mission Matiaba

Matiaba was rescued by one of our rangers in a neighbouring village in November 2020. The poacher guilty of this was sent to jail and Matiaba joined the other young chimpanzees at the base camp.

Matiaba, Zizi, Jacka

Mission Januario

We found Januario in 2020 at the back of a local industrial plant, living amongst metal scrap, with no shade and food, and limited water.

With border closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic and limited infrastructure, rehabilitating him to base camp or Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Congo was not possible. But we arranged for a local team member to bring him urgent food and medicine supplies while waiting for travelling to be possible again.

Sedated Januario
Sedated Januario
The team with Januario (in the crate)
The team with Januario (in the crate)

These primates are proof that wildlife trafficking is prevalent. Wild at Life e.V. has saved countless lives from horrific circumstances where families are ripped apart and taken from their forest homes just so humans can sell these animals. They are sold for their flesh, bones, blood, organs, and basically any body parts that are profitable. They are sold to humans for entertainment, spending their entire lives trapped in tiny, filthy, barren cages. They are sold to zoos and man-made safari parks where humans pay to keep them trapped and away from everything that is natural to them. They are sold to laboratories where they’re tortured in the name of “science”. None of these animals belongs anywhere but in the wild with their families. The ones who are rescued from the evil hands of humans are kept safe and their lives enriched in sanctuaries but make no mistake, there is no replacement for their families and their wild homes.

In memory of Caita, we named the ongoing rescue operations of trafficked primates in Angola “Mission Caita”. Caita might be gone, but with the birth of Mission Caita, dozens of trafficked primates were saved and awareness towards primate conservation has been raised. Caita is the martyr of an important cause and a true heroine.

 

A frequently underestimated part of conservation efforts is what happens after the immediate rescue of an animal. Consider virtually adopting one of the primates to help us sustain our work.

Thank you for believing in us

Update: March 17, 2024

Great News on Mission Caita

Illegal Wildlife Trade and Poaching

Camera Traps have captured a variety of animals appearing in a fromerly heavy poaching area, showing that wildlife is recovering.

What The Mission Is About

Our mission of wildlife conservation and anti-poaching has been very successful so far. In honor of Caita, a chimpanzee that became a victim of poachers, the ongoing rescue operations of trafficked primates in Angola was named “Mission Caita. Since the start, Wild at Life e.V. has rescued numerous lives from distressing situations where families are torn apart, taken from their natural habitats, and sold for their body parts or entertainment pruposes. These animals endure a life of captivity, confined in small, dirty cages in zoos, safari parks, and laboratories where they suffer every day. The rescued ones find safety in sanctuaries, yet the harsh reality remains: there is no substitute for their families and their natural habitats.

 

 

The Importance of Camera Traps

When it comes to anti-poaching measures and wildlife conservation, camera traps are a huge help. The mere knowledge of their presence acts as a powerful deterrence, discouraging potential poachers from going into protected areas, aware that their illegal activities might be captured on camera. Beyond mere observation, camera traps are superior in evidence collection. When triggered by illegal activities, they produce images and videos that can become crucial proof. This evidence not only exposes the methods of poachers but also helps to identify the specific species targeted.In anti-poaching matters, camera traps function as strategic players, helping in identifying poaching hotspots and pinpoint areas with heightened risks. They are also very helpful for estimating population sizes, monitoring population trends, and assessing the health of wildlife populations which is crucial for making important conservation decisions and implementing effective measures.

 

 

Our Success Captured On Camera

Our camera traps have captured that numerous animals are making a triumphant return and the population of various species is increasing, which tells us that we are doing something right.

In a remarkable achievement, our records show a very big milestone – no new cases of poaching for endangered species have been reported in the past year; and after years of decline, the rainforest is once again becoming a vibrant home for countless species.. This remarkable decline in poaching activities shows that our work and the dedication of our team has paid off.

Our guiding motto, “Keep Wildlife Wild,” captures our mission to ensure the natural habitats of these species remain intact and thriving. These camera trap photos serve as a visual reward for our success and, inspiring us to continue our work.

ADOPT NOW

How can I contribute? Consider the option of virtually adopting an animal to support us and sustain our ongoing conservation efforts.

Thank you for supporting us!

Update: December 16, 2023

Mission Caita continues

Do you remember Januario, Tina, José, and Walter from Mission Caita? They are now flourishing in The Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of the Congo.

Angola

Chimpanzee trafficking and poaching pose severe threats to these intelligent and endangered primates. Illegally captured chimpanzees often endure traumatic experiences, separated from their families and natural habitats. The trafficking of chimpanzees not only disrupts ecosystems but also raises ethical concerns about the treatment of these highly social and emotionally complex animals. Our efforts focus on combatting illegal wildlife trade, raising awareness, rescuing and supporting the rehabilitation and release of trafficked or rescued chimpanzees to preserve their populations and welfare.

The Backstory

Back in 2020, Wild at Life e.V.’s founder Asli Han Gedik found Januario caged in the backyard of a local industrial plant, living in dirt full of metal scrap, with no shades, no food and limited water.

Januario was swiftly rescued and brought to Wild at Life e.V.’s sanctuary in Angola, where he was under our care for a year.

Tina, José, Walter, and Maria were found in 2019 in a local’s backyard. Unfortunately, due to the lack of care and nutrition, Maria died before our arrival. Although it was determined that the immediate rescue of the remaining chimps was crucial as they were cage-bound for an extensive period, our hands were tied. In Wild at Life e.V.’s small sanctuary, we had limited space and couldn’t take in three chimps simultaneously. Moreover, the emergence of COVID-19 hindered our progress.

Instead, what we did was bringing the care to these chimps where they were, while also improving their living conditions.

 

From left to right: Tina, José, Walter

The Progress

While Wild at Life e.V.’s commitment involves rescuing and rehabilitating as many trafficked and injured animals as possible, our partnership with JGI takes our efforts further. It enables us to relocate victims of very severe cases to the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, where primates receive comprehensive care addressing both physical wounds and mental trauma. This partnership is called Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

As both organisations are entities in different countries, we each held the responsibility of obtaining documents ahead of the relocation. JGI’s Dr. Rebeca Atencia worked closely with the Congolese Agency of Protected Areas and Wildlife to organise the necessary paperwork, while Asli with the Angolan Ministry of Environment.

Owing to our good relationship with the local authorities as well as the Angolan government, we weren’t only able to gain the exporting documents smoothly, we were also able to open the borders, which were closed at that time due to the pandemic.

From left to right: Asli, Pim, one of our rangers. Standing in front of a law-enforcement panel that Wild at Life e.V. set up with JGI

Once JGI met us in Angola, we immediately initiated the rescue mission of Tina, Walter and José. Tina’s rescue in particular required a lot of effort because of her delicate condition and fragile health. After the three chimps were seized, we picked up Januario from Wild at Life e.V.’s camp. Throughout this process, Pim, our Advisory Board Member and Dutch Representative, joined and helped us in Angola for this mission.

The synergy created when two committed NGOs unite, becoming a powerful voice for the voiceless, is truly extraordinary.

Our heartfelt appreciation goes to the JGI team for this invaluable partnership.

To read about the personalities of each chimpanzee, you may visit JGI’s wonderfully written article.

Our Importance

Wild at Life e.V. is the only NGO present in Angola. Since our establishment, poaching cases have dramatically dropped in the Mayombe forest. This wouldn’t have been possible without the patrolling rangers who risk their lives daily to be at the forefront of wildlife conservation. We are confident that one day, the poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Angola will be eradicated.

Catch a glimpse of what went down that day with these YouTube shorts!

Update on Kuxie

Kuxie, rescued with Zizi and Zeze as part of Mission Caita, is doing incredibly well in our camp in Angola. She is fun to be around, curious, and extremely agile.

Kuxie is a Moustached Guenon and yet another victim of the notorious wildlife trade
Kuxie

Kuxie is a Moustached Guenon and yet another victim of the notorious wildlife trade. Unfortunately, Moustached Guenons are being targeted for bushmeat in Angola, a practice driven by factors like traditional practices, source of income, and food security needs, contributing to their population decline.

A Moustached Guenon being sold by the roadside for $10
A pebble in his lifeless hand - a sign of retaliation till the end
A pebble in his lifeless hand - a sign of retaliation till the end

In memory of Caita, we named this ongoing rescue operations of trafficked primates in Angola “Mission Caita”. Caita might be gone, but with the birth of Mission Caita, dozens of trafficked primates were saved and awareness towards primate conservation has been raised. Caita is the martyr of an important cause and a true heroine.

 

To help us achieve our goal of putting an end to illegal poaching and wildlife trade in Angola, consider making a donation within your means or better yet, adopt one of the primates to show them your love!

Thank you for your support!

Update: December 1, 2023

Mission Caita – Published on JGI

Check out Jane Goodall Institute’s article on Tina, Januario, Walter and Jose from Mission Caita. The article is in English.

Update: September 18, 2023

Mission Caita – Published on La Nacion

Check out La Nacion’s article on Mission Caita. The article is in Spanish.

Update: December 15, 2022

Relocating Maiombe & Friends

Relocation to Congo

With the limited means and political tensions that were rising in the region, Wild at Life e.V. provided Januario with the best that we could. He had what he needed but unfortunately, his living condition was subpar. But the moment we were met with the chance to move him, we immediately took it and cut the wires. We gave him light sedation because his heart and body conditions were weak, so we had to hurry with the relocation. Presently, he is with us at our base camp. Januario has many internal health issues and is on a special treatment. It is a joy to see him smile and communicate with us. With days passing by, he flourishes and is becoming a stronger male.

When the borders to Congo opened, we had a window of only four months to bring over Maiombe, Zizi, Zeze, Jacka, and Matiaba before the next general local election (having good connections is necessary for trans-border relocation). We hurried with all the CITES and official paperwork for both Angola and Congo. Led by Asli, Wild at Life’s team as well as JDI‘s team reached Cabinda for this transfer and gave a green light to start.

Our convoy arrived at the Massabi Land border between Angola and Congo at 22:30. We were all tired, the animals were overwhelmed, and we were all late. Borders close at 16:00 and there was no way for us to cross the border. Thankfully, as Wild at Life e.V. is also helping local communities with human-elephant conflict mitigation, Asli developed strong ties with the Governor of Cabinda whom she called for help. He was puzzled by our request but understood the importance of his approval. At 23:00, the Chief of Police arrived at the border and the border was opened for us at 23:30. We were in Congo’s land by midnight and the next day, we brought the five young primates to JGI sanctuary so they could start their rehabilitation process.

Update: July 15, 2021

Mission Caita – Published on Jampressltd

Check out Jampressltd’s Instagram covering the rescue of Matiaba from Wild at Life e.V’s Mission Caita in Angola. The video’s subtitles are in English.

Update: July 15, 2021

Mission Caita – Published on RTL News

RTL News shares the story of Matiaba being rescued from the hands of poachers who killed his mother. In the sanctuary where he was brought to, Matiaba is raised with a feeding bottle and slowly regains his lost self-confidence. The article is in German.

Update: March 24, 2021

Mission Caita – Published on Jane Goodall Institute

Zeze, who suffered a machete wound that left him blind, is now happily thriving in Jane Goodall’s Tchimpounga sanctuary in Congo. The article is in English.

Update: September 29, 2020

Mission Caita – Published on Daily Star

Daily Star published an article about Caliado, the young chimpanzee who witnessed the murder of his entire family after being captured from the wild. After Wild at Life e.V.’s intervention, Caliado received medical treatment for abrasions found on his limps due to tight ropes. The article is in English.

Update: September 16, 2020

Mission Caita – Published on DailyMail

The DailyMail published a piece on Caita, the chimpanzee that inspired Wild at Life e.V. to create “Mission Caita”, an ongoing project dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating trafficked and abused primates across Africa. The article is in English.

Update: June 5, 2020

Mission Caita – Published on Jane Goodall Institute

The Jane Goodall Institute – our partnering organisation that takes in our rescued chimps to their Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in Congo – has published a part of Mission Caita on their website. They highlighted the challenges chimpanzees faced, explaining that although the law protects them from poaching, Angola does not have an organization that monitors the application of these laws. The article is in Spanish.

Update: April 17, 2020

Mission Caita – Published on Epistle News

In this article, Epistle News talks about how susceptible primates are to fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade, and the correlation between these wet markets and pandemics. The article is in English.

Update: February 23, 2020

Mission Caita – Published on Naturee

Naturee’s video offer a glimpse of what rescuing Caita was like when she was first found in the back of a car trunk. The video also touches on Aslihan Gedik’s professional background, Wild at Life e.V.’s motto, and the importance of protecting not only endangered species, but the environment as well. The video is in English.

Update: April 28, 2018

Mission Caita – Published on Yeşil Gazete

Yeşil Gazete covers Wild at Life e.V.’s Mission Caita which consisted of many months of planning and negotiations between authorities and sanctuaries. The article is in Turkish.

This project is carried out in the following activity areas
Combating illegal wildlife trade

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