by Brooke Chavez, Executive Director
Earlier this week, a male Japanese snow macaque being kept as a pet made headlines because he was at a party and bit a child. Human owners frequently think that because they obtain a wild animal as an infant, and even hand fed and cared for their animal for years, that somehow it could be domesticated in the same way as other domesticated pets. The fallacy of this reasoning becomes evident after a tragic event occurs—such as a this child getting hurt—all because animal owners think because they care for an animal so much, that the ‘wild’ behavior has been ‘tamed’ – but you can’t love the wild out of a wild animal. If they don’t bite the hand that is feeding them – they are motivated by self-preservation, not ‘newly discovered’ instincts. This is just one of the numerous occurrences of this type that we hear about and respond to regularly; we have rescued numerous animals under similar circumstances over our many years in existence.
Macaques belong in the Old World, not pet homes.
For macaques that means Asia, from as far west as India, east to Japan. Some species also inhabit other locales, e.g. the Barbary macaque, which live in Morocco and Algeria, and have been introduced to Gibraltar. They are the most widely distributed primate species on the planet. Tragically, macaque populations in the wild are suffering due to multiple causes—they are hunted for meat, taken as pets, or being exploited at tourist attractions. When monkeys have frequent contact with humans, they lose their natural fear and caution, making it very easy for poachers and wildlife traffickers to catch them. What comes next is almost predictable in its tragic outcomes – for the humans that think that owning a ‘tamed’ wild animal is ‘cool’—but particularly for the bewildered animal that is trying to live through it.
Macaques are also losing natural habitat to deforestation – that reduces or completely eliminates their natural environment where they search and forage for food. They are one of the many species affected by farmers wishing to take advantage of growing profits available from pam oil used in products worldwide, and forests are being burned at an alarming rate to plant palm oil plantations. This is exacerbated by the fact that the soil is frequently depleted after only a few planting seasons, requiring new deforestation to continue planting – an unsustainable practice.
Boycott tourist attractions that imprison primates. It is very common to see macaques housed at these tourist attractions that are morbidly obese. When macaques become accustomed to receiving food (especially junk food in) by humans, they tend to stay near where “fast food” is readily available. This behavior is very damaging to their physical health, as they are ‘trained’ to seek quick satisfaction for food, rather than continue the exercise they get finding it on their own. In addition, the food temptation encourages the monkeys to travel close to roads, where they risk being attacked by dogs and being hit by cars. Finally, they also can become aggressive and attack. From firsthand experience, I can tell you that monkey bites and scratches are very painful, and can easily become infected, or worse. Macaques can be carriers of Herpes B (also known as the macacine virus) that if transmitted to humans, can be fatal.
Other things you can do
: What are the many ways you can help macaques? Protect their natural habitat by watching what you buy (for example, palm oil, which is very abundant in the products that we use daily, and comes primarily from Indonesia) so be conscientious when shopping and avoid products that contain that ingredient. Do not support the pet trade by keeping a wild animal, such as a macaque, as a pet. Support sanctuaries like Primarily Primates that rescues macaques. Click here for more information about macaque sponsorship.
Stay tuned for the next installment where we answer ‘What about the other monkeys’?