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The forests of Mauritius, a small island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, are called a tourist paradise. There’s not much of the forest left – just 2 percent of what once covered the island. And while the biggest business on the island used to be tourism, it’s now the sale of monkeys.
Instead of swinging from trees, the long-tailed macaques are snared by hunters and swung from their tails into cages. From there, it’s a short trip by truck to nearby breeding farms (hidden from tourists), where they live in crowded cages, forced to reproduce and then their babies are then shipped off to laboratories around the world.
Every day, on Mauritius alone, hundreds of monkeys are rounded up like this. At any given time, four major factory farms on the island are holding more than 40,000 monkeys for breeding purposes. Investigators from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) were able to go into one such facility, where they saw thousands of monkeys being held in barren cells lined with concrete and chicken wire. The monkeys could be seen rocking endlessly back and forth or staring blankly into space.
Every day, the macaque babies are weaned as quickly as possible and torn away from their mothers. Males are packed into crates and shipped to laboratories that will pay more than $4,000 per monkey. Females are either shipped out or kept for breeding.
In 2009, according to the International Primate Protection League, more than 22,000 primates were shipped to the United States. These don’t all come from Mauritius, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the imported primates were macaques, and the greatest number of these came from China. But macaques are not native to China, so why are they coming from there?
The answer is that some countries that use monkeys in experiments discourage the shipping of wild-caught animals. Many observers of the trade believe that wild-caught monkeys from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are caught and imported into China, and then re-exported as being “captive-produced” to labs in the U.S. and around the world.
All in all, every year, countries such as China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia send more than 100,000 monkeys to labs around the world. The global “monkey” market is worth almost half a billion dollars.
Ultimately, the labs where the monkeys are sent will do endless experiments on them, paid for by industry seeking to identify products and solutions to profit from.