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





“Although exotic pets are technically alive, in terms of conservation they might as well be dead. Removed from nature, they no longer play any meaningful role for their species or ecosystem.”

– Rachel Love Nuwer


Ban Animal Trading (BAT) and the EMS Foundation (EMS) have, over a number of years, been collecting information, doing fieldwork, undertaking research and analysing data on South Africa’s international and so-called ‘legal’ trade in live wild animals.

This report― ‘Plundered: South Africa’s cold-blooded international reptile trade’―is the third in The Extinction Business Series. The two previous reports examined South Africa’s lion bone trade1 and South Africa’s live wildlife trade with China. Both reports discuss in full how loopholes and ineffectual controls in the permit system, which includes CITES, are enabling international laundering and smuggling of live wildlife. The same applies to the global trade in live reptiles and amphibians, which is discussed below.

The international trade in the majority of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids is mostly unregulated, often unlawful and a growing industry in South Africa. Data on the trade in these species is unreliable and insufficient, because most countries do not keep records or compile data unless the species is listed on the CITES Appendices. Even then the data is incomplete. One reason for this is that, unlike so-called charismatic species such as lions, elephants, tigers and primates―perceived to have higher intrinsic value―reptiles, including species such as snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, alligators and crocodiles are, in terms of public perception, and often because of the negative stereotypes attached to them, considered less desirable creatures, lack the charismatic appeal of anthropomorphic species and consequently they are afforded less attention.

Reptiles also lack the repertoire of facial expressions and vocalizations that would alert keepers to their pain and distress. A sick, hurt, or chronically stressed reptile will suffer in silence. The suffering will often be far more prolonged than that experienced by mammals, due to reptiles’ slow metabolic rate. Blood loss and the healing of injuries are both relatively slow, as are the consequent risk of infection and further complications. Reptiles are among the most inhumanely treated animals in the pet trade. Because they often are cheap and easily replaceable, dealers, captive breeders, and retailers factor huge mortality into their operating costs.



Plundered: South Africa’s Cold-Blooded International Reptile Trade is Part 3 in the Ban Animal Trading an EMS Foundation, The Extinction Business Investigative Report Series. The purpose of this Series is to examine South Africa’s international wildlife trade.
South Africa’s Lion Bone Trade (2018) was Part 1 of the Series and can be found here: https://emsfoundation.org.za/wp-content/uploads/THE-EXTINCTION-BUSINESS-South-Africas-lion- bone-trade.pdf & https://bananimaltrading.org/attachments/article/209/The%20Extinction%20Business.pdf

Breaking Point: Uncovering South Africa’s Shameful Live Wildlife Trade with China (June 2020) was Part 2 of the Series and can be found here: https://emsfoundation.org.za/wp-content/uploads/BreakingPoint__FINAL_15052020_web.pdf & https://bananimaltrading.org/attachments/article/209/BreakingPoint__FINAL_15052020_web.pdf

The mention of any individual, company, organisation, or other entity in this report does not imply the violation of any law or international agreement, and should not be construed as such.

© 2020 Ban Animal Trading and EMS Foundation. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing.






We, the EMS Foundation and the World Animal Protection – Africa, with the endorsement of the undersigned African organisations, request President Cyril Ramaphosa―as a member of the G20 and as Chairman of the African Union―to support a G20 ban on international wildlife trade and an immediate and permanent closure of wild animal markets.

Scientists agree that a genomic comparison suggests that the SARS-Cov-2 or COVID_19 pandemic is the result of a recombination between two different viruses, meaning that the exact origin of the virus is unclear.

In December 2019, 27 of the first 41 people
hospitalized with the virus passed through a food market located in the heart of Wuhan city in Hubei Province in China. The vendors at this market brought a variety of live wild animals together for purchase, slaughter and consumption. The scientists are still not sure in which animal species the virus occurred, bats and pangolins could both have been the reservoir for the virus.

The COVID_19 pandemic has overwhelmed health systems and economies across the world. The crisis is still affecting the global economic structure in ways that will last for decades to come.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of physical access to key sources of goods production. More activity will become virtual and therefore global but at the same time the production of physical goods will become national.

All available evidence for COVID_19 suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has a zoonotic source. Since there is usually limited close contact between human and bats, it is more likely that transmission of the virus to humans happened through another species, on that is more likely to be handled by humans.


This petition is authored and signed by:

Tennyson Williams – Director – World Animal Protection, Africa and Michele Pickover – Director – EMS Foundation

This petition is supported by the following organisations:

Ban Animal Trading – South Africa – Smaragda Louw

Four Paws Animal Welfare Foundation – South Africa – Fiona Miles

Humane Society International – Africa – Tony Gerrans

Future 4 Wildlife – South Africa – Stefania Falcon

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos – South Africa – Megan Carr

Animal Law Reform South Africa – Amy P. Wilson

Baboon Matters – Jenni Trethowan

Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa – Toni Brockhoven

Centre for Animal Rehab and Education – South Africa – Samantha Dewhirst

South Peninsula Customary Khoisan Council – South Africa – Stephen Fritz

Global White Lion Protection Trust – South Africa – Linda Tucker

Institute for Critical Animal Studies Africa – Les Mitchell

Monkey Helpline – South Africa – Steve Smit

Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching – Kim Da Ribeira

Sea Shepherd South Africa – Prathna Singh

Southern African Fight for Rhinos – Lex Abnett

Vervet Monkey Foundation – South Africa – Dave Du Toit

WildAid Southern Africa – Guy Jennings

African Climate Alliance – South Africa – Said Irux

GFG Environmental Education – South Africa – Jabu Myeni

Parliament for the People, Regenerative Farming and Climate Justice in South Africa – Vivien Law

Youth Climate Group – South Africa – Sera Farista

Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute – Francesca De Gasparis

Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations – South Africa – Rehad Desai

Extinction Rebellion South Africa – Anita Khanna

Panthera Africa – South Africa – Catherine Nyquist and Lizaene Cornwall

Dr Brett Bard – Veterinarian, South Africa

South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public and Human Rights International Law – South Africa – Professor David Bilchitz

Advocates 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe – Lenin Chisaira

Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation – Nomusa Dube

Elephant Human Relationship Aid, Namibia – Rachel Harris

Dr Ross Harvey – Environmental Economist, Botswana

Hands-Off Fernkloof, South Africa – Peter Hodgskin

Mutare SPCA, Zimbabwe – Lynne James

WildlfeDirect, Kenya – Dr Paula Kahumbu

Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa – Jmi Karani

Conservation Kenya – Dr Winnie Kiiru

Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya – Kahindi Lekalhaile

Giorgio Lombardi – Vogelgat Nature Reserve – South Africa

Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe – Linda Masudze

Bring the Elephant Home – South Africa – Antoinette van de Water

Professor Dan Wylie – Rhodes University – South Africa

© 2020 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved.




WRITTEN BY: Jared Kukura

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) released a statement opposing a ban on wildlife trade in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICCS advocates for better regulation of wildlife trade in the hope of benefitting people and wildlife.

There are four main objectives in the ICCS’s statement, three of which should be supported by every organisation.

  1. Prevention of illegal, unsustainable, unhygienic and high-stress use of domestic and wild animal species.
  2. Support of well-regulated, sustainable and cruelty-free trade in wildlife, based on evidence that a particular trade is helping to protect wildlife and their habitats against threats whilst meeting livelihoods and food security needs.
  3. Limitation of destruction of natural ecosystems for agriculture, mining, infrastructure development and urbanisation, working towards halting further loss and restoring nature.
  4. Better management of industrial agriculture, to prevent disease outbreaks in humans and livestock, animal welfare issues, pollution of the land and watercourses, and antibiotic resistance.

But the second objective is a missed opportunity to protect wildlife. The ICCS states conservation efforts need to conform to livelihood and food security needs. However, at this stage in the human game, the opposite is needed. Livelihood and food security needs must be met through alternative avenues and must conform to conservation efforts if we wish to protect wildlife.




WRITTEN BY: Jared Kukura

The current public health crisis is forcing global leaders to reflect on what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future pandemics. Evidence suggests wildlife trade is responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak. But the question remains, what is the best path forward?

Sustainable use advocates warn of potential unintended consequences if wildlife trade is banned. The industry simply needs better regulations from their point of view. However, the notion better regulations can curb the negative effects of wildlife trade is a fallacy. Banning wildlife trade is the only realistic way to protect wildlife and our own species.

Wildlife has diminished around the globe, partly, because of legal and regulated trade. In China, bear bile farming was promoted in the 1980s as a sustainable way to exploit bears while creating a buffer to protect wild populations from poaching. But after decades of trade, China’s wild bear populations are decreasing while the number of bears caged and tortured are increasing. Research shows farmed bear bile has little effect on reducing poaching and may increase the demand for wild bear bile due to consumer preference.



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