Unilad ignores pleas over monkey suffering
PRESS RELEASE for immediate release 27 July 2016
“When you're searching for f*cks to give,” ran the banners pasted across a video of Angel, the famous pet monkey, drinking from a green plastic cup and turning the pages of a big book. The video was posted on Facebook by Unilad on July 13, just days after they had been contacted by a coalition of organizations requesting that they review their policy about posting images of primates being kept in pet-like situations, due to the negative effects that such videos are known to have on primates all over the world.
Angel’s owner claims that the long-tailed macaque is “a rescue,” yet Angel is depicted in dozens of YouTube videos in her owner’s house, cuddling with children and cats, having makeup applied and generally living a life in entirely inappropriate circumstances that are unlike any that a reputable animal sanctuary would provide for her. She is never far from people and never with other monkeys. No primate sanctuary with any understanding of what monkeys need rescuing from would allow such situations to occur with their rescued animals, and they certainly would not publicly post such images of their resident primates. This is because sanctuaries know that such images promote the trade in primates as pets; a trade that inevitably causes suffering for the animals involved, and often for the people, too.
Thanks in part to exposure to images of apes and monkeys living the apparent high life with human companions, the general public often fails to grasp the reality of primate ownership - that primates are undomesticated animals with certain innate needs that are not possible to meet in domestic situations. Being born in captivity does not equal domestication, but many people do not understand this, and are easily and thoroughly convinced that with a whole lot of “love”, a monkey can become a happy member of a human family.
Unilad’s video of Angel travelled quickly through the Internet. Within hours, the video had been viewed thousands of times and now has well over two million hits. As expected, the inevitable “I want one” comments appeared almost immediately. Sadly, Unilad never responded to the coalition of concerned organizations who had so recently asked the organization to reconsider such postings. The title and caption of Unilad’s post, and their continual posting of harmful material, appears to be indicative of how little they care for primate welfare and conservation. Read the letter that Unilad ignored below.
11 July 2016
We are a coalition of animal welfare and conservation organizations with specific expertise in non-human primates. Several of us have contacted you individually about this matter, but none have as yet received a reply. We hope you will take our concerns to heart and let us know what you think of this matter.
Will you consider implementing a policy that limits or eliminates the promotion of images or videos that depict non-human primates in pet-like settings, in human environments, with human companions?
With well over 14 million fans on your Facebook page alone, what you choose to post achieves great visibility and widespread impact. On May 22nd, you posted a video of a so-called “rescued” monkey in a human home, wearing lipstick, and being combed by her human companion (here: https://www.facebook.com/uniladmag/videos/2278236895532690/). This video, like previous similar posts, was almost certainly posted in a spirit of fun. People really do like to see cute videos of humans and animals interacting. What you may not know, though, is that the keeping of primates as pets is a very problematic practice. You are probably unaware that viral images of this sort contribute dangerously to the general public’s misunderstanding about primates and their needs. Exposure to such images can have a seriously negative impact on animal welfare and conservation, particularly when the images are presented as light-hearted, fun diversions.
Uninformed viewers of videos like these tend to form the impression that primates can and do thrive in human company and in human environments. Any credible primatologist, biologist or animal welfare specialist, however, will tell you that they cannot. Multiple studies1–5 have shown that images of this nature influence human perceptions of and attitudes towards primates. These, in turn, shape people’s behaviour towards primates. For example, exposure to videos like the one posted on May 22nd increase viewers’ likelihood to want a monkey as a pet. In other, similar cases, the spread of such videos has directly hindered conservation efforts for highly endangered species6.
Consider the condemnation faced by celebrities who obtain pet primates or pose for photos with endangered animals. Justin Bieber, Dez Bryant Lady Gaga, for example, have all been called foolish and irresponsible for such actions. Unilad would do well to avoid such associations.
We appeal to Unilad, as a powerful source of exposure for viral videos and images of all kinds, to acknowledge that videos such as that posted on May 22nd can have unintended negative impacts. If Unilad and other major sources of these videos and images would stop posting them, then such damage would be largely prevented, and our non-human primate cousins would stand a far better chance at survival in a world that is already stacked against them.
We hope to hear your thoughts on this matter soon.
Nicola O’Brien, Captive Animals Protection Society (www.captiveanimals.org); Brooke Aldrich, Neotropical Primate Conservation (www.neoprimate.org); Erika Fleury, North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (www.primatesanctuaries.org); Sarah Hanson and Paul Reynolds, Wild Futures (www.wildfutures.org); Kate Chabriere, Moroccan Primate Conservation (www.mpcfoundation.nl); Professor Anna Nekaris, Little Fireface Project (www.nocturama.org); Dr Sian Waters, Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation (www.barbarymacaque.org)
1. Leighty, K. A. et al. Impact of Visual Context on Public Perceptions of Non-Human Primate Performers. PLoS ONE10,
2. Ross, S. R., Vreeman, V. M. & Lonsdorf, E. V. Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets. PLoS ONE6, e22050 (2011).
3. Ross, S. R. et al. Inappropriate use and portrayal of chimpanzees. Science319, 1487 (2008).
4. Schroepfer, K. K., Rosati, A. G., Chartrand, T. & Hare, B. Use of ‘Entertainment’ Chimpanzees in Commercials Distorts Public Perception Regarding Their Conservation Status. PLoS ONE6, e26048 (2011).
5. Aldrich, B. Facial expressions in performing primates: Could public perceptions impact primate welfare? (University of Edinburgh, 2015).
6. Nekaris, B. K. A.-I., Campbell, N., Coggins, T. G., Rode, E. J. & Nijman, V. Tickled to Death: Analysing Public
Perceptions of ‘Cute’ Videos of Threatened Species (Slow Lorises – Nycticebus spp.) on Web 2.0 Sites. PLoS ONE8,
Video posted by Unilad on 13 July: https://www.facebook.com/uniladmag/videos/2318415494848163/
Video posted by Unilad on 19 May: https://www.facebook.com/uniladmag/videos/2278236895532690/
Wildlife Trafficking and Child Labour
Last weekend, we participated in a police intervention at the district of Sauce, San Martin. In this intervention, a woolly monkey, a capuchin monkey, a sloth and a tortoise, who were all being used for photo tourism, were rescued. The animals were handled by children, who were asking tourists for 5 soles per photo. Four out of the seven children we had identified were caught by the police. After they were caught, the kids started crying out loud, seeking attention from the tourists, who became worried about the children and started criticizing the police intervention. The police were very kind to the children but didn’t surrender to the pressure of the crowd. The children were brought to the police station where they gave their data and their parents were called. The childrens’ parents were fined 39 500 Peruvian Soles (about 12,000 USD), which is the lowest fine according to Peruvian law for the trade or wildlife ownership. The police also warned the parents that the child labour is illegal in Peru and made them aware that they would be punished much harder themselves if they tried to punish their kids for being arrested. The children were not sanctioned by the police. Instead, the police just had a talk with them about the situation and they were warned not to keep or use wild animals.
This intervention highlights a very important phenomenon: the use of children in the wildlife trade. In our last visits to Sauce, most of the people handling the animals were adults, but when they saw that the authorities were acting on this illegal activity, they started bringing their children to do the job, hoping the police would not arrest underage children.
We’ve been finding this situation in lots of places; children are travelling long distances, sometimes with their mothers and sometimes alone, to bring newly hunted animals to the wildlife traders and markets. People don’t report these children and the authorities don’t want to intervene, since they’re aware of the social consequences and criticism associated with police interventions toward minors. When the children and mothers are arrested, they tend to cry, saying that the animal is the child’s pet and we know that, even though having these animals as a pet is also illegal, a lot of the authorities will not confiscate the animal. For this reason, the use of child labour is becoming one of the most common tactics of the wildlife trade.
We congratulate the police team in Sauce, especially the commissar Julio Erik Reátegui Álvarez for his professional and correct procedure in this sensitive situation. In order to support the efforts of the commissar against the wildlife trade in Sauce, we have now given 2 days of environmental education talks in the schools of Sauce, explaining to the children that wild animals are not pets or tourist attractions and that the children themselves also have social rights that can’t be violated.
We ask all tourists and citizens, whenever they see children travelling or working with wild animals, not to ignore the situation but to call the authorities so that they can intervene. This is not just for the animals sake, but also for the welfare of these children, who are being exploited against the law.
Since January we have been involved in the rescue of 177 wild animals from illegal trafficking! The anti-trafficking operations we organized with the authorities have led to the arrest of seven wildlife traffickers.
These anti trafficking operations included raids on five markets in Pucallpa, which resulted in the arrest of four traffickers, the rescue of live animals and confiscation of close to a hundred kilograms of bush meat. Two other raids took place in the Vado Market in Yurimaguas, Loreto, where more than 150 animals were rescued and two traffickers were arrested.
Those detained by police are currently under investigation and both administrative and criminal proceedings have been opened against them. Thanks to recent changes in the Peruvian wildlife laws immediate sentencing is possible for the first time and penalties have been increased to 3 to 6 years in prison and a minimum fine of S/.39,500 (about $11,000).
NPC's undercover work helped identify the trafficking centers and during the raids we helped identify illegal activity and have aided in care of the rescued animals.
None of this would have been possible without the work of the authorities of Ucayali and Loreto. These regions are national centers of wildlife trafficking in Peru, with hundred to thousands of animals trafficked every day, smuggled from the rainforest to coastal cities and out of the country. These kinds of operations are an absolute necessity to combat these practices that are driving many species to extinction. We hope that under the new wildlife law raids will be much more frequent until wildlife trafficking will be stamped out.
End of Year Report 2015
We are pleased to present NPC's annual report, which highlights our most important achievements of 2015. From important studies on the ecology of Peru's endemic primate species, to the continued success and expansion of our Community Based Conservation Network, to an intensified focus on battling the illegal trafficking of Peru's fauna, it has been a very busy year!
We hope you will enjoy learning more about it.
Support our spay/neuter program for dogs
NPC is seeking funding for the implementation of a spay/neuter programme in the villages of the Peruvian Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot.This region is considered to the most biodiverse region on Earth, as well as one of the most threatened. and is home to many endemic and highly threatened taxa of flora and fauna, including the Critically Endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda), the Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi) and spectacle bear (Tremarctos ornatus).
Local people keep dogs for company, but also for security reason and very often they leave dogs in very remote areas to guard their fields. Sometimes they leave them in the fields overnight to guard cattle. These dogs are fed the minimum necessary and hunt to supplement their diet and to amuse themselves when their owners are away. Except from the direct hunting problem, unhealthy stray domestic animals can be very dangerous vectors for diseases transmission into the forest, contaminating and infecting populations of wildlife with diseases they have little or no immunity against. These diseases can become real epidemics wiping out wild populations of certain species without anyone knowing about it. Therefore it is extremely important to keep domestic animals population as low and as healthy as possible.
There is also a very important moral issue. The main way people in the area avoid too much breeding is by killing the females as soon as they are born, usually by drowning in a sack. Therefore, in typical villages, there are very few females and a lot of males. Apart from the horrible ways in which the new born females are disposed of there is also the problem of to many males. When just one female is in heat fights between the dozens of males become very fierce and many are wounded severely, sometimes dying later from injuries or infection.
The idea of this project is to offer free sterilizations, basic veterinary care and education about how dogs and cats should be kept, to the people living in villages surrounding our research station. We have vets associated with the project that are willing to do the work voluntarily or for a nominal fee, therefore costs will be kept to a minimum, just materials and transport. We estimate that 300 - 400 pounds would be sufficient for the first 30-40 dogs, or enough for two or three villages. Prices will decrease slightly if we can get funds for a larger amount of operations which we could be offered to people in growing number of villages, depending on the amount of funds available.