Social media has changed the way we do things. This is why Daniel Stiles has spent the last few weeks scrolling WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter looking for a misstep that would serve as a breakthrough for his investigation. Mr. Stiles can be described as a self-styled ape tracking detective based in Kenya. He spends time on these social media platforms looking for pictures of orangutans, chimps, and gorillas. He says that he is investigating into the illicit global trade that involves apes. This is a trade that has resulted to the death and capture of more than ten thousand apes pushing some of these species to extinction. He says that the way these smugglers do their business will make a mafia feel like an amateur. He says that after searching for months, he found an account on Instagram that offered rare animals for sale.
The account claimed that the owners specialized in baby chimpanzees. At the same time, orangutans were also on sale except that they were dressed in children’s clothes. He further says that he sent an email to the owners asking for a young otans. An otans is the industry standard slang used to represent orangutans. He was lucky as he received a reply to his email one week later. He was offered two baby otans. He was further informed that he would have to part with seven thousand for each of the babies. After a small inquiry, the seller said that his name was Tom.
He also mentioned that he was currently based in South East Asia. Even without asking, Mr. Stiles said that the babies were on their way to a private sector zoo in the region where they are used for various forms of entertainment. For instance, when apes are drugged or beaten, they can become submissive to the extent of boxing one another or banging drums. The trade has grown in years despite international regulations. After receiving a string of follow up messages from the man, Mr. Stiles says that he traveled to Bangkok for the trade. Ape trafficking is quite different compared to other forms of trafficking. It’s one of the few animal trafficking that involves live animals. For instance, the elephant ivory, tiger bone wine as well as rhino horns trafficking involve dead animals. The trade involves young apes as they can be controlled. As for the older chimps, transporting an adult chip has been compared to smuggling a box of dynamite.