Mauritius is known as Paradise Island but it needs to be paradise for everybody, including the monkeys.
Lord Hanuman is one of the most popular deity in the Hindu religion and is worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. The ‘monkey god’, is revered by Hindu communities around the world, including a considerable segment of the population on the paradise island of Mauritius.
Upon visiting the Island, the presence of Lord Hanuman can be strongly felt as representations of him adorn the public spaces and the Islanders own homes. Yet, although this monkey iconography is part of everyday life and widely celebrated, a cruel paradox occurs as the living and breathing monkey inhabitants of the island are not treated with the same reverence and suffer greatly.
Mauritius is known for is pure white beaches and crystal clear water but the island harbours a very dark secret. Unbeknownst to the thousands of holidaymakers and honeymooners who visit each year, there are large breeding farms which dominate the lush landscape and contain tens of thousands of monkeys who are doomed to be shipped across the globe to be used in experiments.
Mauritius is one of the world’s largest suppliers of primates for the research industry; responsible for the trapping, breeding and export of thousands of long-tailed macaques (also known as the crab-eating macaque) every year. Wild monkeys are torn from their habitat, family and social groups, and confined in unnatural conditions in large breeding facilities across Mauritius. Field investigations carried out by the BUAV have revealed not only the cruelty and suffering that is inflicted upon the island’s population of long-tailed macaques, but also the scale of the Mauritius monkey trade, which is a major industry on the island. Monkeys are being ‘farmed’ in their thousands at a number of breeding facilities throughout the country to be exported around the world. Their offspring are exported as cargo on airlines primarily to laboratories in the USA and European Union, including the UK which imported over one thousand monkeys from Mauritius in 2013.
Primates normally live in close knit social groups, with close family bonds; trapping practices routinely rip families apart as wild animals are torn from their jungle homes, to be imprisoned behind bars on concrete within large farms where they are bred to produce offspring who will eventually themselves be exported for research; some as young as two years old.
Primates have complex social and behavioural needs and these needs cannot be met inside the breeding farms. Those filmed by the BUAV showed monkeys kept in concrete pens in overcrowded groups devoid of trees and other foliage – a sharp contrast to the surrounding forest habitat which is the monkeys’ natural home. These cramped and artificial conditions cannot provide the freedom of movement and allow individuals to express their natural behavioural repertoire that is so important to their well-being.
And, sadly the industry is not only limited to Mauritius. Many people are unaware of the widespread use of long-tailed macaques in experiments and how many countries are involved in exporting them. In fact, the long-tailed macaque is the most widely traded and used primate species for research globally. For many travellers keen to experience the beauty, nature and culturally diverse experiences the world has to offer, the long-tailed macaque living in the wild will likely be a familiar sight to, to those who visit Southeast Asia. However, countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are major suppliers of primates for the international research industry. Over recent years, tens of thousands of macaques have been torn from their jungle homes and either exported directly to laboratories or used to establish breeding farms in industrial-scale facilities in these countries.
Whether readers have a vested interest in global travel, just want to know more about the destination they dream of or wish to ensure that their travel plans are as ethical as possible it is essential that travellers know more about the devastating impact occurring to this beautiful, intelligent and sentient primate species.
Take action by visiting www.buav.org/mauritius to sign the petition and write to the Mauritian Embassies to express your concern for the plight of these beautiful primates.
Copyright © 2014 Michelle Thew