Conservation news

Busted: Guinean wildlife official arrested for trafficking chimpanzees

  • Ansoumane Doumbouya was arrested August 21 following an undercover investigation by various authorities, including INTERPOL.
  • Doumbouya was commander of Guinea’s main agency charged with combating the country’s illegal wildlife trade and served as its authority to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Doumbouya allegedly issued fraudulent CITES permits for the export of various species, including chimpanzees, monkeys, manatees, and parrots, although the full extent of his activities remains under investigation.

Officials have arrested Guinea’s former wildlife director under allegations that he helped illegally export hundreds of chimpanzees and other wildlife from the West African nation since 2008.

Ansoumane Doumbouya was arrested August 21, following an undercover investigation by various authorities, including INTERPOL, according to a press release from the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), an initiative of the United Nations. He faces 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

Ansoumane Doumbouya, a Guinean wildlife official arrested for allegedly trafficking in chimpanzees and other species. Photo courtesy of the Great Apes Survival Partnership.

“Ansoumane Doumbouya has been identified for years as central to the illicit traffic of apes from West Africa,” GRASP coordinator Doug Cress said in the press release. “To finally have him under arrest is a major achievement.”

Doumbouya was commander of Guinea’s National Wildlife and Forestry Mobile Enforcement Brigade, the main agency charged with combating the country’s illegal wildlife trade. He also served as served as Guinea’s authority to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international treaty governing wildlife trade, according to the press release.

The full extent of Doumbouya’s involvement in illicit wildlife trafficking remains under investigation. He allegedly issued fraudulent CITES permits for the export of various species, including chimpanzees, monkeys, manatees, and parrots. Blank CITES export permits were found in his possession, the press release stated.

In 2011, CITES officials found that 69 chimpanzees had been exported the previous year, en route to Chinese zoos and safari parks. “Investigations led by NGOs and private individuals have revealed that as many as 138 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas have been exported via travel routes established by Chinese development companies. Doumbouya’s signature was also found on fraudulent CITES permits that sent bonobos to Armenia in 2011,” the press release states.

“No one knows exactly how many chimpanzees and other apes were victims of Doumbouya’s operations – there are indications he even exported gorillas and bonobos, which aren’t endemic to Guinea – but these latest developments are an important step forward for the Rule of Law,” Cress said.

The investigation into Doumbouya’s activities swept up another alleged wildlife trafficker. A man named Thierno Barry believed to have illegally exported protected species to Asia was also arrested.

A captive chimpanzee. Photo by Rhett Butler.