In a first for the world, an animal sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing demands for ransom money after kidnappers abducted three of its baby chimpanzees.
According to CNN, kidnappers broke into the Young Animal Confiscated in Katanga sanctuary around 3am on September 9. They took three of the five baby chimpanzees that were rescued earlier this year, Franck Chantereau, founder of the sanctuary, told the outlet. He also added that he found the other two apes hiding in the kitchen. The kidnapped chimps are named Cesar, Hussein and Monga.
"This is the first time in the world that baby apes were kidnapped for ransom," Mr Chantereau said.
The founder of the sanctuary informed that after the chimps were abducted, his wife received three messages and a video of the animals from the kidnappers. "They told us that they had planned to kidnap my children because they were supposed to come here on vacation. But they didn't come so the kidnappers took these three babies hostage and demanded a large amount of ransom from us," Mr Chantereau told CNN.
The kidnappers claimed to have drugged the chimps and threatened to hurt them if the ransom wasn't paid. However, Mr Chantereau said that it is "impossible" for the sanctuary to pay the money. "Not only do we not have the money, but you need to understand that if we go their way, they could very well do it again in two months, and also we have no guarantee that they will return the baby to us," he said.
Mr Chantereau is also concerned that if he gives in to the kidnappers' demands then it would open the door to further abductions. "There are 23 sanctuaries across the continent doing this. If we pay the ransom, it could set a precedent and it could give ideas to others, so we must be extremely vigilant," he said.
Separately, speaking about the incident, Michel Koyakpa, media adviser to DRC's environment minister, said that the act was "inhumane and unnatural" and that they will not give in to the kidnappers' demands.
The authorities are still investigating and trying to identify the kidnappers, in the hope of finding them in the coming days or weeks, Mr Koyapka told CNN. The kidnap is the "first of its kind in the history of the DRC," he added.