Monkey holiday photos support animal cruelty

Last updated 15:38 01/12/2013

ENDANGERED: Kuma with her newborn at Taronga Zoo.

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Have you ever seen been offered the chance to have a holiday snap taken with a cute monkey?

Did you post the image on Facebook or ''like'' a similar picture on a friend's page?

Then consider this message from the British animal charity Care for the Wild International: in doing so you have made the animal trade more lucrative and ''liked'' animal abuse and cruelty.

The real story behind the happy monkey snap is that the tourist stunt is contributing to the decline of many primates. The animal was most likely taken from his family at a tender age and his mother inevitably killed.

The monkey would have had his teeth and claws ripped out to ensure he did not scratch or bite during the photo shoot.

Considered a working animal, not a pet, the source of revenue is ultimately dumped or killed when it is deemed no longer cute enough to be in front of the lens.

The charity's chief executive Philip Mansbridge said it was easy to get caught up in the moment when on holiday, so having a photo taken with a cute wild animal may seem like a good idea. But if people knew the true story behind these animals then they would learn to say no.

''If you see a wild animal that isn't in the wild, then it's time to ask questions,'' Mansbridge said. ''If it's a young animal, where's its mum? Why is it so tame?''

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the population of chimpanzees in the wild could be as low as 172,000. Chimps, officially ranked as endangered, have already disappeared completely from four countries.

Lou Grossfeldt, supervisor of primates at Taronga Zoo said baby chimps may look gorgeous but they were also vulnerable.

''By the time they reach five years of age, these animals are incredibly strong and powerful and they need to be tied up. They need to be restrained, so then they are placed in a cage. By the time they reach full maturity an adult chimp will have the strength of five human men. They are unmanageable.

''It's hard to know what happens to every individual but I have no doubt there are some stories out there that would break your heart.''

Primates, especially chimpanzees, face attack on several fronts. They are also taken as pets and their flesh traded as bushmeat.

The Bushmeat Project, part of the Biosynergy Institute in California, says an army of a few thousand commercial bushmeat hunters supported by the roads and logging stations for the timber industry will illegally shoot and butcher more than $2 billion worth of wildlife this year, including as many as 8000 endangered great apes.

Its website warns: ''People pay a premium to eat more great apes each year than are now kept in all the zoos and laboratories of the world. If the slaughter continues at its current pace, the remaining wild apes in Africa will be gone within the next 15 to 50 years. With them will vanish most of the equatorial rainforest, and the cultures of indigenous people who have lived there for millennia.''

Taronga Zoo supports Tchimpounga, a sanctuary run by activist Jane Goodall in Congo where chimpanzee populations were once widespread but deforestation has forced them into smaller pockets of rainforest.

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In 1961, Dr Goodall, an international conservation voice for the chimpanzee, observed chimps using a twig as a tool to extract termites to eat from their mound. Until that time, only humans were thought to create tools.

Tchimpounga is home to more than 150 chimpanzees orphaned through the bushmeat trade and Taronga provides support through salaries and veterinary drugs. The zoo also supports the program to reintroduce chimps back into the wild.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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