Over 70% of all great ape seizures are orangutans

#PrimatesAreNotPets, Conservation, Environment

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The illicit wildlife trade threatens species of all shapes and sizes.

According to UNEP 2016 report, of all great ape seizures, 70% are orangutans.

Major threats causing orangutan population decline are:

  • Forest degradation –  orangutan’s habitat is destroyed vastly by unsustainable palm oil plantations, and their subsequent forest fires, which are used by the industry to clear land for, you guessed it, more palm oil plantations.
  • Pet trade – cute and cuddly when young, orangutans get plenty of unwanted attention. Greedy humans shoot orangutan mothers to steal their young before selling the babies to the pet trade. Because orangutans share 97% of DNA with us and are wildly intelligent, with our genetic and emotional similarities we can only imagine how much pain and suffering the poor orangutans have to go through.
  • Human-wildlife conflict – coming back to lack of land left for orangutans,  orangutans often venture into plantations (e.g. palm oil) where farmers are prepared to shoot and beat them to protect their crops.

These critically endangered orange-furballs are disappearing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that in less than 50 years, they will be vanished from the surface of the earth, if the current rate of deforestation and wildlife trade continues.

Our vague memories of the magnificent orangutans will fade into history as they join the long list of animals that humans have exploited to extinction. Move over dodo and thylacine, lets add a great ape to the list….

Trip Advisor Criticised For Selling Cruel Animal Experiences

Environment, Tourism

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Foreword

Let us be honest, as tourists we are somewhat naive and gullible. First, we book a trip to some exotic country and plan to see the most it has to offer. If we are lucky enough to find one with exotic animals, we will pay to take pictures to share on social media. However, what may seem harmless, in actual fact, it endorses and supports slavery, money laundering and illegal trafficking. If those were human children chained and dressed up in ridiculous outfits, we would be appalled. But when they are bears, monkeys, elephants and tigers, we cannot help ourselves but forget how cruel the whole ordeal is. Thus, as tourists we book our trips and book “experiences” that allow us to take pictures, hug, or stroke wild animals. Even when such experiences are illegal and highly unethical.

Many of the animals that you will find being promoted as wildlife experiences are endangered (tigers, chimpanzees, orangutans, slow lorises etc.). Their endangered status is partly due to declining habitat size, human population pressures and environmental changes. However, the most damaging is the public perception and the occuring illegal wildlife trade. Thus, before we enroll ourselves in these questionable activities, why can we not stop and think “where did they get this animal from?” and more importantly “is this good for the animal’s welfare?”. Maybe it is our human greed, the need to own everything, to experience everything, the desire to tame wild animals, that eludes our common sence.

World Animal Protection has recently launched a new campaign encouraging the public to “Demand [Trip Advisor] stop promoting and selling tickets to cruel wildlife tourist attractions”. It is important to recognise that we all have a responsibility to change our bad (tourist) habits. We can change this by firstly stopping the demand for such attractions. But little will change unless we demand it from those who supply us with cruel experiences, that are sold under “entertainment”. Sign the petition here and demand Trip Advisor stop selling cruel wildlife experiences: Wildlife. Not Entertainers.

Avoid booking these experiences:

  • Taking pictures with any wild animals: if it could have come from the wild, it most definitely belongs in the wild.
  • Be wary of “sanctuaries” where animals are timid and tame enough to take pictures: they may have been sedated, especially for tourists.
  • “Sanctuaries” where only tiger, lion or other cubs are present with no adult animals in sight:  The adults are either sold for trophy hunting activities (as they are timid, not afraid of humans and thus easier to shoot), or are used as breeding machines while the cubs eventually are sold into the pet trade or for traditional medicine production.
  • Any animals performing tricks: remember how cruel circuses were considered to be. It’s like that, but worse. Animals are taken from the wild, tortured untill they “learn” the tricks and then spend long, sleepless, stressful hours performing for tourists.
  • Any animal (esp. elephant) rides: Elephants do not like being taken away from their caring families, having their spirits broken untill they are willing to give up and allow the trainer to torture them. They do not appreciate fat westerners breaking their backs for a stroll in the forest. All they ever wanted was to be with their families, left alone in peace.

 

Picture Credits: Tiger in chains & elephant ride from World Animal Protection Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign. Macaque by Iris.  

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As I previously mentioned (but in case you still missed it), I run a Facebook page called Primates Are Not Pets. It was created to raise awarness about keeping primates as pets and expose the horrors of this trade. My fellow primatologist Sophie Hanson helps me run the page. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on twitter!

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The Cruel Primate Pet Trade

#PrimatesAreNotPets

Have you ever looked at an Instagram post of someone’s pet monkey and thought “I want one!”. Or maybe it was a video of a furry primate holding an umbrella. Either way, you were blown away by it’s charm and decided that this is the right pet for you….Well what would you say if I switly told you that you are wrong. Oh so very, very wrong. But before you click away, let me explain: It is impossible for you to want to have a pet primate because simply there is no such thing as a “pet primate”. 

Now you are probably thinking “great. She’s one of those (animal-loving-nature-worshiping-hippies)”. Well, yes and no. I am infinitely in love with nature and my mission is to help preserve it. But that’s irrelevant. My claims are not opinions or anecdotes. My claims are evidence based. Backed up with solid science.

So why is there no such thing as a pet primate?

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“Pet loris” in a defense position. (Source: YouTube)

Firstly, primates are wild. They are not domestic animals. To obtain a primate, one must be taken away from the wild. At any cost. Here’s how it happens: Imagine a robber bursting into your home and gunning down the whole family. After all, no mother will give up her baby without a fight. No father or uncle will allow the baby to be ripped away from the family.  So the robber shoots everyone to avoid being attacked, then collects his trophy (the baby). Horiffic right? That’s not all. The baby is then smuggled out of the country, sometimes travelling across continents. Then finally he is sold for profit as an “exotic pet”. Exhausted and terrified he endures extreme physiological stress. His body balances between life and death. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that this trade is illegal. And extremely unethical. You would be appalled if this happened to a human baby, then why support this happening to another creature?

Some countries that do allow primates to be sold as pets, have regulations which prevent the import of wild primates. Which means that ones already in the country, can be bred. So why shouldn’t you consider buying from a ‘legal’ breeder? There are two main reasons actually. Firstly, you don’t actually know how that animal got there. There is no way to prove that it wasn’t illegally imported. Many primates (including lemurs and lorises-some of the popular choices as pets) do not breed well in captitivity. Therefore, it is almost certain that they were imported from the wild.

Secondly, young primates are usually torn away from their mothers just days after being born. Primates are not gerbils. They spend many years with their mothers before reaching independence. Even the smallest of primates, mouse lemurs reach adulthood between a year and two years old. Removing the primate from his mother too early does the same damage as isolating a human child from his: extreme psychological damage (click to watch a video!).Many primates live in social groups.

Secondly, unless you get 20 monkeys and buy a piece of forest for them, raising a happy single primate is not realistic. Social animals need to socialise with their kind. They need to build long lasting bonds. They need someone to groom and for someone to comfort them. But humans are not capable of filling in this role. We don’t speak primate. We don’t even understand what most of their squeaks mean. So what happens when a primate is raised in total isolation of his own species? A cocktail of depression, anxiety, self harm and a hint of crazy happens.

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Foraging is a team effort.
Picture by Karolina Simanaityte (c). Captured in Brazil.

Now, think teenagers on steroids. That’s what most pet primates are like. This is because, when a primate reaches sexual maturity he becomes unpredictable. With no possible mates to explore and nowhere to direct his sexual frustration all hell breaks loose. Both males and females can become extremely dangerous (video). But its not just because of their raging hormones. Many primate species live in hierarchical societies in the wild. And as you may guess, seeking the rank of dominance is a sweet reward after making war.

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Look at those canines! And that’s only a juvenile capuchin monkey (Cebus apella). Picture by Karolina Simanaityte (c). Captured in Brazil.

Disease transmission. Primates and humans are almost one and the same. We share more than 95% DNA and so many of human diseases can be passed on to primates, and vice versa. Creating a dangerous game of biological Russian roulette. Think Ebola, SIV/HIV etc. Are you sure you still want a pet primate?

Illegal pet trade is one of the reasons why primates are endangered in the wild. Our need to own an exotic pet is pushing them closer towards extinction. Do you remember that monkey I mentioned holding a tiny umbrella? That was the slow loris. A small, endangered, and venomous primate. One bite can kill a human. However, following the famous videos featuring (illegally obtained) pet slow lorises, the internet exploded. Millions of views later, slow loris was the exotic pet of the year. Everyone wanted to own this cute primate. And the primate started to slowly disappear from South East Asia.  But what most people didn’t realise is that these silly looking gremlins had to have their teeth removed without anaesthesia in order to prevent them from biting their human overlords. Wait what?! TEETH REMOVED WITHOUT ANAESTHESIA??? Yes. But don’t take my word for it, watch it here. Also, slow lorises are nocturnal primates (active primarily at night). Therefore, exposure to bright lights hurts their eyes and can even blind them. Now that is just animal abuse.

This leads us to the last and final point: owning a pet primate is animal abuse (refer to previous points for explanation). Therefore, supporting people who own pet primates is supporting animal abusers. And you are better than that.

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Loris has teeth clipped.

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Loris “for sale” in an open market. Crammed in a small, rusty cage and visibly ill.

Congratulations, now you know what it takes to obtain (and keep) a pet primate! Please do your research before considering to buy a primate. Always think “how did it get here?” and know that “it will be miserable if I keep one”.

#PrimatesAreNotPets

For more information please check out Tickling Is Tourture and The Little Fireface Project .