The illegal primate trade in Asia is destroying some of the region’s most appealing species, such as the long-tailed macaque.
Found mainly in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines, long-tailed macaques are the most heavily traded mammals and have developed into a large-scale business enterprise.
In March this year, the animals committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed to urge countries trading in long-tailed macaques to consider the impact the international trade was having on wild populations of the animal.
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) discovered in Laos that many of the macaques used to establish the breeding farms had come from Cambodia.
BUAV obtained a copy of a CITES export permit issued by the Cambodia Management Authority in January, 2010 that permitted 4,000 long-tailed macaques and 1,000 pig-tailed macaques to be exported from Cambodia to a farm in Laos.
BUAV believest Cambodia is breaching CITES regulations by allowing a largely unregulated trade in long-tailed macaques that has resulted in cruel treatment and sickening conditions for the monkeys on the farms.
To avoid detection by the authorities, the animals are smuggled into the farms at night and hidden under packs of ice in vehicles that have been adapted to hold cages.
The monkeys are kept in small cages, or overcrowded concrete pens, and the farm is surrounded by a high concrete perimeter wall with razor wire on top.
In recent years, the demand for monkeys has been driven by biological warfare experiments, because they are similar to humans.
Long-tailed macaques are forced to inhale, or be injected with, drugs or chemicals that can cause nausea, vomiting, pain, acute suffering and even death.
Between 2004 and 2008, traders sold more than 260,000 long-tailed macaques. These monkeys, the most widely distributed genus of non-human primates, were exported to laboratories in the US, Japan, Britain and across Europe for medical experiments.
Recently, they have been used for AIDS research.
In addition, macaque monkeys are used as a food source in some parts of Southeast Asia, especially in China.
The crab-eating macaque, or long-tailed macaque, has escalated in this illegal wildlife trade. Crab-eating macaques feed not only on crabs but on fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, small reptiles, amphibians, fish and crustaceans.
Animal-rights organisations such as PETA and BUAV question the legitimacy of this trade, and believe it is cruel and poorly regulated.
Not only are endangered species threatened, but the destruction of ecosystems has been affected.
If you would like to support conservation and wildlife rescue projects in Cambodia, a public fund-raising event organised by Innov8, sponsored by Smart Mobile and Total, and supported by Asian Tigers Mobility and Excell, will be held on October 4 at the Ebony Tree restaurant.
All proceeds from the function will go towards building enclosures for the rescued animals and for their ongoing rehabilitation and release back into the protected forest areas of Cambodia.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.