Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Macaque Monkeys: trappers and handlers accused of animal abuse in Mauritius

One of the more disturbing moral dilemmas between man and nature is the use of animals for scientific or medical research. While the desire amongst many is to treat these subject animals in the most humane way possible, there will always be a strong argument for using them in research rather than expose a human to possible harm - particularly if it involves research for disease cures.

While the ethical debate goes on (and there has been some progress for the animal rights activists regarding the use of animals for cosmetic testing and other non-life threatening pursuits), the one thing no one wants to see is mistreatment of the animals that are captured or bred for these purposes. Many seem to agree that is the least we could do.

Long-tailed macaque monkeys are a primate species that has been used in a wide range of research from the early days of the space program to today. They are also somewhat prolific, being listed as of "least concern" for endangerment by the IUCN. Macaque monkeys are bred in several African and Asian countries primarily to supply the research field with test subjects.

Off the southeastern coast of Africa, east of Madagascar, lies the island nation of Mauritius, which is home to at least four breeding farms to service its customers - the United States is the largest importer of primates from Mauritius, followed by breeders in Spain, Israel, and Puerto Rico. But according to a report by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), monkeys are being seriously and cruelly mistreated in Mauritius, perhaps due to an attitude that views the long-tailed macaque monkey as a pest worthy of eradication.

According to the Associated Press, a report just released by the BUAV cites instances of monkeys being kept in small, restrictive wire cages; showing clear signs of injuries; and even being swung around by their tails by the trapper/handlers. Inquiries by AP to several Mauritius government agencies have gone unanswered.

Quoting AP, "'The animal was clearly terrified, yet the trapper routinely removed him from the cage and tormented him by picking him up and swinging him around in the air by the tail,' the report said. "This particular primate also had injuries to his forehead.'"

The long-tailed macaque monkey has been introduced as an invasive alien species over the years in several locations including Hong Kong, western New Guinea, Palau, and Mauritius. It has proven to be a successful predator and in so doing, disrupted the natural balance, particularly in island nations where isolated species are unaccustomed and unprepared for the impact of alien species. While it certainly may be considered a pest on the island of Mauritius, mistreatment of this animal, particularly when it serves an economic value to the islanders, does not seem in any way justified.

The BUAV's agenda is clear and so their report may be viewed by government or industrial officials with a measure of bias. Whether that impacts the reports ability to change conditions in the Mauritius monkey trade remains to be seen. But as the debate continues as to whether mankind is to continue to use animals - monkeys or otherwise - for research purposes, providing a measure of dignity and respect for an animal that is providing us with a benefit would not seem to be an impossible goal.

Read the Associated Press news release.

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