More than 60 macaque monkeys discovered in the back of a taxi are being held in Kompong Thom province while officials try to determine whether they were being transported illegally, officials said.
The 64 macaques were confiscated in Stung Sen district Jan 23 and are now being held at the Kompong Svay district forestry office, said Chea Chan Thoeun, the office’s deputy chief.
“We have to keep the monkeys for evidence,” he said.
Police confiscated the primates from a driver carrying photocopied government documents stating that a breeding farm in Kompong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district had permission to buy monkeys, he said. The farm breeds and sells monkeys for medical research purposes, he added.
But officials are concerned that the documents may have been forged. They also suspect that the monkeys were being illegally smuggled, either by the farm, which may have wanted more monkeys than it was officially allowed, or to Vietnam, Chea Chan Thoeun said.
He declined to provide the contact information for the farm in question.
There were originally 67 macaques, but three of them have died at the office because they were young and sick, Chea Chan Thoeun said. The driver of the vehicle, who was carrying the monkeys in sacks, was not arrested.
Nev Broadis, animal husbandry specialist at environmental NGO WildAid, said WildAid is ensuring the macaques are cared for while they are held at the forestry office, though he did not elaborate.
Nick Marx, also an animal husbandry specialist at WildAid, said illegally traded macaques can fetch about $90 each.
“There’s a huge illegal trade,” he said.
He added that the officials in Kompong Svay are trying their best to look after the primates, but that the odds are ultimately against them.
“They’re doing great work confiscating more wildlife, but they don’t have the facilities [to care for the monkeys],” he said.