By John Ikani
An animal sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing demands for ransom money, after kidnappers abducted three of its baby chimpanzees.
Heritage Times (HT) gathered that the kidnappers broke into the JACK Primate Rehabilitation Center sanctuary in Katanga Province around 3 am on September 9.
They took three of the five baby chimpanzees that were rescued this year. The other two were found hiding in the kitchen. The kidnapped chimps are named César, Hussein and Monga.
The kidnappers went on to send ‘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 gang says that they will decapitate the animals and send their heads back to the sanctuary if they do not get the money.
Meanwhile, Franck Chantereau, founder of the sanctuary, has told CNN that he cannot affor to pay the ransom, and also if they did agree to it, they might do it again in a few months.
“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 matter is being investigated to determine the identity of the kidnappers and hopefully to get the chimps back.
The sanctuary has been targetted on two earlier occasions. First in 2006, when a group of people broke in at night and set fire to the baby chimps’ sleeping place, killing two out of five. In September 2013, the sanctuary’s education center was set ablaze, but there were no casualties, Chantereau said.