Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
A piece by the New York Times a few days ago highlighted the cruel and obscene black market trade in ape smuggling. Journalist Jeffrey Gettleman chronicles the intricate maze that is Internet-based trafficking by following Daniel Styles, a man who has dedicated his life to putting ring leaders behind bars. “Apes are big business — a gorilla baby can cost as much as $250,000 — but who exactly is buying these animals is often as opaque as the traffickers’ identity. Many times, researchers say, they can only begin to track where the apes have ended up by stumbling across the Facebook posts and YouTube videos of rich pet collectors.” Although the outlook of the article is bleak, new research on chimpanzees bolsters our awareness that great apes are some of the most sentient creatures around deserving of our respect and dignity. The study found correlations on the personality spectrum between different chimpanzee communities in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park which were calculated by a questionnaire filled out by field assistants. Personality traits included categories such as dominant, helpful, curious, and vulnerable and “corresponded to ratings of 24 Kasekela chimpanzees on a different questionnaire in 1973 that assessed some similar traits.” Understanding how personality perpetuates and presents itself in primates like chimpanzees, will hopefully lead us to a day when the wildlife trade in these amazing animals is a thing of the distant past.