It turned out that because of wildlife trade regulations, there is no legal way for ordinary Gulf citizens to import apes. The number of baby apes showing up on Instagram feeds simply does not match the number of apes exported to the Gulf countries in the past decade, according to Haslett. For orangutans, the data shows that not even one orangutan has entered any Gulf State (Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) since 2005 with a CITES permit.
"It's reasonable to conclude that the Gulf apes were illegally gotten," he wrote. "But how?"