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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - British MP lashes out at monkey business

British MP lashes out at monkey business

Along with NGO, politician appeals to govt to halt export of monkeys for research abroad.

AS THE legal monkey trade in Cambodia continues its rapid growth, a British-based animal protection group and a British parliamentarian have decried the resulting "unacceptable cruelty and suffering" inflicted on Cambodia's long-tailed macaques.

Last Thursday, British Labour MP Chris Mullin called on the Cambodian government "to put an end to this awful trade", and the chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) urged the UK government to express concerns to the Cambodian government.

According to data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Cambodia started legally exporting long-tailed macaques in significant numbers in 2004, and the industry has been steadily growing since then. In 2008, the number of long-tailed macaques exported from Cambodia nearly doubled to about 15,000, roughly 9,700 of which were sent to China.

As a CITES signatory, Cambodia can only export macaques that have been bred in captivity for medical research. But Sarah Kite, director of special projects at BUAV, said this restriction was impossible to enforce.

"It is very difficult for Cambodia to police whether wild-caught animals are themselves traded internationally.... We understand that there is a lack of effective enforcement of primate farms," she said.

But Men Phy Mean, the director of the Wildlife Office at the Forestry Administration, said the Cambodian government had adequate mechanisms to enforce the regulations.

"We put two inspectors in each company, and if any of the companies does not respect the CITES regulations, then we will fine them," he said.
Breeding facilities still need wild monkeys to establish their farms, and Kite said monkey farms continued to rely on wild populations to expand their farms.

The collection of monkeys for breeding facilities has been accelerating since 2004, according to a 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report.

And this has led to techniques for capturing monkeys that damage the whole forest ecosystem, according the IUCN.

"Farm staff enlisted the aid of, and instructed, local villagers in the trapping of monkeys, which involves isolating groups in trees by felling the surrounding forest," the report said.

During a visit to the Vanny Bio-Research Corporation farm in Kandal province, Kite said she was "shocked" when she saw "monkeys housed singly in small, barren cages". These conditions, she said, "failed to meet the complex... needs of this highly intelligent and social species".

None of the macaque-breeding companies contacted would allow a reporter to view its premises, but a documentary about the Vanny Bio-Research Corporation obtained by the Post shows long rows of cages in which monkeys are housed communally. Single cages can be seen in what appears to be the monkey infirmary.

The monkey business is already big business in Cambodia, Men Phy Mean said.

"At least 200 people work in each monkey farm," he said.

Other types of farmers also stand to benefit, he said, "because the monkey farms need more than 10 varieties of food".

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