Victims of the Wildlife Trade Living in Solitary Confinement 

Aaron Gekoski, an award-winning wildlife environmental photojournalist, published haunting images of Bau Noi in 2018.  

He has spent years documenting animals in captivity and is the founder and lead investigator at Raise the Red Flag, a global campaign to end cruelty in the Wildlife Tourism industry. 

Bau Noi, is a female gorilla, she has lived at Pata Zoo which is located on the top floors of a shopping mall in Bangkok since 1988.

Human evolutionary studies have indicated that humans and gorillas share ninety-eight percent identical genetic similarities. 

The gorilla genome is particularly important for our understanding of human evolution, because it tells us about the crucial time when we were diverging from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees.

A team of scientists have concluded that gorillas have hierarchical societies similar to those of humans. Gorillas spend most of their time in dense forests, travel great distances to a new home locations on a daily basis. 

Dr Robin Morrison, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, gained intimate views of gorilla and their social connections during a five year study in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.  

She confirmed that there were family units nested inside larger social units in patterns strikingly similar to modern human societies.  Individual gorillas spent time not only with their immediate families but also with an average of thirteen extended family members. Furthermore that each gorilla interacted with thirty-nine other gorillas to whom they were not related.

During the last few years the physical environment of primates in captivity has become a subject of considerable interest.  Gorillas seem to be extremely sensitive to environmental conditions.  

Zoos cannot provide the amount of space gorillas have in the wild, gorillas roam for large distances.  Zoos do not provide natural habitats and this is particularly true of the Paka Zoo in Bangkok. 

The well-being of gorillas is dependent on their environment, Bau Noi lives in unnatural surroundings on her own this could mean that she might have developed physical health problems or anxiety, depression and even psychosis. 

Bau Noi was captured from the wild, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture in 2011 concluded that solitary confinement for humans beyond fifteen days constituted cruel and inhumane punishment.

If scientific research has revealed the breadth of human genetic, emotional and cognitive kinship with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans we must conclude that the lack of contact, the sensory deprivation must had have severe impacts on Bau Noi’s well-being during her solitary confinement in Paka Zoo. 

Primatologists and conservations who have devoted their lives to studying the great apes in order to protect their rapidly vanishing populations in the wild have expressed the opinion that apes should not be confined to zoos and that there is no good evidence that captive apes are having any positive effect on their wild relatives. 

Over the past few years public awareness of the sentient and sensitive nature of high-level mammals, like gorillas, chimps, elephants, orcas and dolphins has led to the demise of Ringling Brothers, the removal of orcas and dolphins from public exhibition, laws preventing the use of bull hooks to control elephants and the freeing of Kaavan, the elephant from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. 

Animal rights activists have asked Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to remove Bua Noi from the zoo and for the closure of the Pata Zoo.  

Marc Bekoff a behavioural ecologist and professor at the University of Colorado argues that an animal’s life in captivity is a shadow of their experience in the wild.  

PETA’s investigation shows that the animals at the zoo are locked in dark, barren concrete cages and that they are offered no enrichment and little mental stimulation or physical exercise. PETA has offered to transfer all the animals to a sanctuary

Free the Wild is an international charity they endeavour to stop the suffering of wild animals in captivity and ultimately find a way to release them into sanctuaries or better equipped zoos.  Their current mission is to free all the primates at Pata Zoo.

The EMS Foundation is currently completing two investigations into the legal wildlife trade as part of the a series called the Extinction Business.  Three reports have already been published illustrating how zoos and private individuals around the world are supplied legally with wildlife such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, primates and giraffes.  

These wild animals are kept as pets or as part of displays are suffering and living in misery, many are physically and psychologically damaged.  We believe, that it is time to reconsider keeping wild animals in captivity, this is an outdated practise of a less enlightened era. 

Image Credit: Aaron Gekoski at Pata Zoo, Bangkok

Image Credit: Dr Robin Morrison, Nouabale Ndoki National Park

© 2020 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved




“Why wait until a species is on the brink of extinction before we try to help”.

27th July 2020

Rita Miljo was the founder of The Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education C.A.R.E.

Rita Miljo was born in Litunaia, she moved to South Africa in the the 1950’s where she became a renowned conservation and animals rights pioneer.  

On the 27th July 2012 Rita Miljo tragically died in a fire which swept through her home and the sanctuary which is located on the banks of the Olifants River. 

The first baboon she rescued was called Bobby, they
were inseparable, he died in the fire with her; they were buried together according to her wishes.

 Her first group of rescued baboons were released back into the wild in 1994 confounding many skeptical professional primatologists.  

All in all, more than dozen troops totalling some 250 baboons were released back into wild during the last twenty years of Rita Miljo’s life. 

Incredibly, Rita Miljo had no formal scientific training, she was motivated to help animals for humanitarian reasons.

In 2002 Nelson Mandela was with her for a release of troop of baboons at Shambala Wildlife Reserve in Limpopo in South Africa. The image above is from that special time, with grateful thanks to the management of C.A.R.E.

Baboons are regarded as vermin in South Africa despite their high intelligence and social skils.  Baboons have long been shot and killed because people find them to be a nuisance.  At one time monetary rewards were offered for handing in a scalp and tail of baboons, it is still legal to shoot baboons in some instances.

Rita Miljo was repeatedly charged with transporting and keeping baboons without the correct permits. Her devotion to rescue, to rehabilitate and release baboons into the wild was much greater than her fear of the law. When provoked her answer was always the same: “Who are you to tell God that he should not have created baboons?”

The C.A.R.E Sanctuary was formally established in
1989 for primate conservation and rehabilitation and since then C.A.R.E.  has become a pioneer in the field of Chacma Baboons.

Stephen Munro, (BSc Animal Welfare) is the managing Director of C.A.R.E. and together with Samantha Dewhirst (MSc Primate Conservationist), they have formed a perfect partnership. Their combined a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge and their dedication to primate rehabilitation and release the C.A.R.E. sanctuary is continuing to fulfil every one of Rita Miljo visions.

C.A.R.E. is also committed to educating local communities and tourists about the positive aspects of the co-existence of humans and wildlife.  They have partnered with many schools in the area and they provide field trips to the centre.

The EMS Foundation is a proud financial supporter of the C.A.R.E. sanctuary where they have four semi-wild enclosures, an environmental educational centre, outdoor classroom, offices quarantine facilities, a quarantine orphan nursery, bonding and integration enclosures, accommodation for students and volunteers, a veterinary clinic and an animal food prep kitchen. 



© 2020 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved.



EMS Foundation Ensures Release Back into the Wild of Twelve Young Baboons Destined for Research at the University of the Free State

On Wednesday 20th September 12 young and highly stressed baboons, who weeks before had ruthlessly been ripped from their families by controversial primate trapper and zoo (Eventiera) owner Erich Venter for heartless use in biomedical research (vivisection) at the University of the Free State, were released back into the wild.

This uncommon, but soul-stirring event came about as a result of cooperation between the CARE (Centre for Animal Rehabilitation), the EMS FOUNDATION, and Shambala Private Reserve.  Only 2 days after their release, 5 of these baboons were already spotted with one of the existing troops on Shambala, and since then there have been several other sightings.

After a desperate email from CARE, and within a matter of hours, the EMS FOUNDATION, working closely with Shambala, was able to ensure that these innocent victims would once again taste freedom.

But there is also a very dark side to this story and many questions need to be asked by the public, of the government, the research laboratories (who are mainly part of universities) and the NSPCA.



Why did the Limpopo provincial government (through LEDET: the Limpopo department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism) sanction and issue permits to Erich Venter to remove wild baboons from their families and social group? Not only is this act of kidnapping very cruel, but it obviously severely, and negatively, impacts on the family members left behind and on the entire social structure of the baboon troop (which in turn promotes human-baboon “conflict”). Not to mention the extreme damage it has had on the traumatised trapped individuals themselves, who although now have a second chance at a life in the wild, they have to try and form new bonds in totally unfamiliar surroundings. LEDET’s primary mandate is to promote biodiversity and conservation not destroy it: their action is irresponsible and their lack of compassion inexcusable. The public needs urgent reassurances from government that this will never happen again and that they have policies in place to prevent baboons from being used in research.


The baboon trapper and supplier of wild-caught primates to universities in South Africa, Erich Venter is an extremely controversial figure and has a long history of brutality to our indigenous primates. Why are the universities and government supporting this man?
See: https://www.facebook.com/SpecialAssign/posts/1589306474452998


The role of the universities in actively perpetuating cruelty needs to become front and centre of public scrutiny. Universities core activities are knowledge production based on access to information – and they all scream out loudly in support of access to information. But the worrying truth is that if you are seeking information about their own activities, to put into the public domain, they are obstructionist and secretive. Ask for full disclosure on their vivisection and animal ‘use’ activities and you will get the door closed in your face. As publicly funded institutions, they need to be opened to public scrutiny. The EMS Foundation calls on WITS, UCT, UFS, UNW, UKZN, UJ, Monash, Rhodes, the MRC and all other institutions that practice vivisection to open their doors!


The lack of transparency and accountability in the vivisection industry in South Africa is aided and abetted by the lack of legislation to protect animals in laboratories and the clear lack of political will to deal with this issue. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that most animal research goes nowhere, animal research is still erroneously regarded as part of the research toolbox. It is a self-perpetuating industry and it is very difficult to get those whose livelihoods depend on doing research that involves animals, no matter how unnecessary or useless, to stop.  University administrators are turning a blind eye to the moral and questionable scientific issues as long as the research money flows in.


Although this is a relatively happy ending for these particular baboons, we will never fully know the details of this case. This is because the NSPCA sits on so-called ‘Animal Ethics Committee’s’ only with the proviso that they sign confidentiality agreements with the research institutions. In this way everything is dealt with ‘in-house’ and vivisection in South Africa remains publicly unaccountable and the public therefore has virtually no idea about what is actually going on in this problematic industry. Under the watch of the NSPCA, non-human primates and other animals continue to be used in research in South Africa. This is why deals with NGOs, where ‘Animal Ethics Committees’ remain effectively closed to public scrutiny and which do not reveal to the public what is happening in labs in South Africa, are unacceptable.  For an animal welfare organisation to participate in these committees on the basis that they will keep ‘violations’ and problems confidential and out of the public domain is counter intuitive and protects the industry and universities at the expense of public accountability. The extent of the vivisection industry and the suffering of the animals caught up in it remains secret. The consequence of all of this is that the public outcry is muted. Very convenient for the industry, its proponents, and protectors, no doubt.

© 2017 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved.



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