An undercover investigation into alleged animal cruelty at a monkey farm in Laos has reportedly uncovered the existence of an illegal operation smuggling wild long-tailed macaques from Cambodia, investigators from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection claim.
BUAV investigators recently gained access and filmed video footage at the Vannaseng Trading Company monkey farm in Laos and say their evidence shows conditions are in breach of the International Primatological Society’s guidelines. They say thousands of monkeys were kept in rows of small, crowded pens at the farm.
A series of e-mails between BUAV investigators and Vannaseng Ounalom, the owner of the monkey farm, state that the original breeding stock used at the farm were long-tailed macaques, caught from Cambodian forests and smuggled into Laos between 2003 and 2004.
In a subsequent e-mail, Mr Vannaseng goes on to say a new Vannaseng Trading Company monkey farm, due to open this month, will also use captured wild Cambodian primates as breeding stock, adding that the Cambodian monkeys were due to be delivered in February.
“For the new monkeys, we will import from Cambodia as the Lao Law is strictly prohibited to catch wildlife from Lao forests. We expected to import next week,” Mr Vannaseng wrote in the Feb 6 e-mail provided by the BUAV.
The database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which tracks and regulates the wildlife trade and to which Cambodia and Laos are both parties, does not list any trade of long-tailed macaques from Cambodia to Laos since 1992.
BUAV Director of Special Projects Sarah Kite said the investigation had uncovered a “disturbing trade in macaques caught from the forests of Cambodia to populate an expanding monkey farm industry in Laos.”
“We are…concerned not only that monkeys from Cambodia may be being shipped illegally across the border into Laos but, also by the impact this trade is having on the wild populations of the long-tailed macaque,” Ms Kite wrote in an e-mail.
“We are calling for an urgent investigation into this matter by CITES and the Cambodian authorities.”
Ms Kite added the organization wished the “mechanics of our investigation not be made public.”
The head of the Cambodian CITES management authority, Agriculture Ministry Undersecretary of State Uk Sokhonn, said yesterday by telephone that he was unaware of any illegal monkey smuggling to Laos.
“There is no permit to Laos [for monkey trading],” Mr Sokhonn said, adding that he would investigate by contacting authorities from provinces where the capture of wild monkeys is common.
Attempts to contact Mr Vannaseng by phone and by e-mail were unsuccessful.