Poached Primates

Pet and Medical Industries Fuel Illegal Trade in Endangered Orangutans

The cargo handlerat Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, Thailand didn’t think much of three small wooden crates that had just arrived from Singapore until he heard cries that sounded frighteningly like human babies. Stamped “live birds,” the crates were X-rayed and the contents were revealed. One box held two rare siamang gibbons, and the others had six baby orangutans stuffed inside small cells like coffins. When the boxes were pried open, all six animals appeared grey in color and desperately ill. Their stomachs bloated, the orangutans had been drugged and three shipped upside down. The discovery of “the Bangkok Six” on February 20, 1990 offered a glimpse inside the shadowy world of the international trade in endangered species.