Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite
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News 2024

The following are news items we have posted in 2024. See elsewhere for news from other years.


Index of news items; select date & title to access:


17 February 2024: Indonesian suspect arrested for torturing and killing baby monkeys and selling the videos online

Infant long-tailed macaque abused for 'entertainment' on social media; Action for Primates
Infant long-tailed macaque abused on social media
Action for Primates

Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker welcome action taken by West Kalimantan Police in Indonesia, in the arrest of an individual suspected of torturing and killing baby monkeys on camera and selling the videos to buyers in the USA and abroad for $50-$100 USD per video.

Police reportedly found a dead, mutilated monkey wrapped in plastic outside the suspect's home; torture apparatus inside the home, including a gas stove, soldering iron, hammer and slingshot; and 58 videos depicting sadistic torture of baby long-tailed macaques on his mobile device. The suspect's name has not yet been released publicly.

Lady Freethinker and Action for Primates, together with other animal groups such as Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), have been investigating the disturbing world of online monkey torture rings for over two years in an effort to end the horrifying violence inflicted upon baby monkeys for online circulation.

Their work began with an investigation in 2021 that uncovered the disturbing escalation of private online groups on platforms like Telegram, in which people in Indonesia created 'custom' monkey torture videos for an audience of monkey "haters" in the USA, UK and elsewhere. Members of the group paid for and dictated what method of torture they wanted inflicted upon the monkeys.

These underground rings were the topic of the recent BBC documentary "The Monkey Haters", for which Lady Freethinker, Action for Primates and JAAN provided information and intelligence.

In the last 18 months, two other individuals in Indonesia have been convicted and imprisoned for their part in torturing and killing baby monkeys; one individual in the USA has been jailed with two others charged for their roles in online monkey torture gangs, and there have been several arrests in the UK.

Shockingly, many of these graphic videos – depicting mutilation, burning, beating and more – have also been posted on Facebook and YouTube, making them easily available for others, including children, to access and view. Lady Freethinker and Action for Primates are calling on social media and video sharing platforms to take immediate action to stop the proliferation of animal torture content that is being posted online.

Sarah Kite, co-founder of Action for Primates, stated: We welcome the action taken by the Indonesian Police. Filming the torture and killing of baby monkeys for 'entertainment' is abhorrent and must never be tolerated. We hope this will deter other people from becoming involved in these perverted and sadistic activities.

Nina Jackel, Founder of Lady Freethinker, stated: I'm thankful to West Kalimantan Police for arresting the person thought to be responsible for horrific violence against dozens of innocent monkeys for profit. Such crimes must be taken seriously, especially as evidence shows time and time again the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans.

21 January 2024: The trade in wild-caught monkeys from South America

Guianan squirrel monkey living freely in Colombia; Diego Guzmán, Unsplash
Guianan squirrel monkey, Colombia
Diego Guzmán, Unsplash

A review of the most recent data submitted to CITES for 2017-2021, revealed that 7,209 live native non-human primates, almost all captured in the wild, were exported from South American countries. The main countries to export were Guyana and Suriname, with others being Venezuela, Brazil and Peru. The most common species exported were squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus), capuchins (Cebus apella; Cebus olivaceus) and tamarins (Saguinus midas). Many were sold for commercial trade, and it is feared that they may have ended up in the 'pet', 'entertainment' or laboratory trade.

Guyana exported the greatest number and variety of species; the most common being the Guianan squirrel monkey (3,616), followed by the tufted capuchin (976), the wedge-capped capuchin (324) and the golden-handed tamarin (223). The most common species exported by Suriname was the Guianan squirrel monkey (1,160) followed by the tufted capuchin (226). All exports from Guyana and Suriname were recorded as wild-caught.

The main country to import non-human primates from South America between 2017-2021, was China (4,682), followed by the USA (828) and Thailand (508). China is renowned as a major user of non-human primates for research and toxicity (poisoning) testing. It is also renowned for keeping various species of wildlife, including primates, as 'pets' and using them in 'entertainment' venues. Thailand occupies a major role in the global wildlife trade, and the demand for 'exotic pets' within the country has been well documented. The Guianan squirrel monkey was the main species imported by the USA. In 2019, Venezuela reported exporting 269 wedge-capped capuchins to the USA for 'scientific' purposes.

Black-tufted marmoset free in Atlantic Forest, Brazil; Afonso Farias
Black-tufted marmoset, Atlantic Forest, Brazil
Afonso Farias

There is also an extensive global trade in non-human primate blood and serum and other tissues from South America. This involves multiple species, reported primarily as being wild-caught, and exported for 'scientific' purposes. Between 2017-2021, Brazil and Peru were the greatest exporters of these bodily products.

It is alarming that many countries still allow the cruel exploitation of their native monkeys and continue to grant CITES export permits for those captured and torn from their families and natural habitats. Equally disturbing is that countries continue to import wild-caught monkeys, despite major welfare issues and the negative impact on wild populations.

Wild native non-human primates also face many threats from a domestic trade that can include their capture to be kept or sold as 'pets' or for 'entertainment', for laboratories and breeding facilities or for human consumption. The extent of this domestic trade is not known as such data are not included in the CITES trade database.

One example of the result of domestic trade involved Brazil. Wild black-tufted marmosets (Callithrix penicillata) living freely in the forests of Brazil, were captured by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, and "donated" to the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) where they were used and killed in tests for an "anti-cocaine vaccine" (see our news report for more information).

An article by Action for Primates, reporting on this disturbing trade in thousands of monkeys out of South America, has been published in Biodiversity MAG, the online magazine of the International Conservation & Biodiversity Team (ICBT). Click here for access to the article. The entire issue can be accessed by clicking here.

13 January 2024: Cruel use of snow monkeys in Japan to study human gambling addiction

Japanese macaques in Jigokudani hot springs; andrew_t8, FreeIMG
Japanese macaques, Jigokudani hot springs
andrew_t8, FreeIMG

In an effort to understand how human gamblers make their choices, snow monkeys (also known as Japanese macaques) suffered extensively and were killed in a disturbing experiment at Kyoto University, Japan (Sasaki et al 2024). The procedures were approved by the Committee for Animal Experiment at the Graduate School of Medicine.

Six adult Japanese macaques were used (four were female, two were male) in this research to study the underlying neural mechanism of gambling disorder in humans. They were subjected to highly invasive surgery in which their scalps were cut open and an injection chamber attached to the skull, and the skull opened and electrodes placed directly onto the brain. In some, a toxin was injected into the brain in order to temporarily cause loss of function in a specific region. A marking agent was also injected.

In addition, head posts were attached to the skulls in order to later severely restrain the macaques' heads in a fixed position during training and recording sessions. Eye movements were used to indicate whether the macaques preferred high risk-high return rewards or low risk-low return rewards. The researchers stated that water was used as a reward. Monkeys would not normally consider water to be a 'reward'. We have to assume, therefore, that there had to be fluid or water deprivation sufficient in degree to make them thirsty enough to 'work' for a few drops of water.

The macaques had to endure laboratory conditions and invasive brain surgery, with their lives completely controlled – coerced into 'working' for water rewards – before being killed in order to get their brains for further study.

Gambling is an addiction, and, like other addictive disorders in humans, is complex, and influenced by many variables such as social, environmental, economic, cultural, psychological and biological. The researchers stated that they were trying to determine how the macaques made a decision when choosing between a high or low chance of getting a reward and compared this with more pathological forms of risk-taking decisions manifesting as gambling disorders. Using macaques as surrogates in an attempt to study gambling disorder in humans is not just immensely cruel, it is also irrelevant to people. By stating that only future studies will reveal whether this state in primates is comparable to that in patients with gambling disorders, the researchers themselves admitted that their findings may have no relevance to humans with gambling disorders. There are, however, ethical studies in human volunteers which provide the kind of information being sought. The only way to learn about human conditions is by channelling financial and intellectual resources into studying humans.

Reference:

  1. Sasaki, Ryo; Ohta, Yasumi; Onoe, Hirotaka; Yamaguchi, Reona; Miyamoto, Takeshi; Tokuda, Takashi; Tamaki, Yuki; Isa, Kaoru; Takahashi, Jun; Kobayashi, Kenta; Ohta, Jun and Isa, Tadashi 2024-01-05 Balancing risk-return decisions by manipulating the mesofrontal circuits in primates Science (New York, N.Y.) 383(6678):55-61

7 January 2024: Infant marmosets killed in inhumane parental deprivation research in Japan

Common marmosets living freely; Dario Sanches
Common marmosets living freely
Dario Sanches

Demonstrating a remarkable lack of compassion, researchers removed newborn common marmosets from their mothers (and fathers) in order to study the effects of parental deprivation and human hand-rearing on brain development (Shinohara et al 2024). The experiment was carried out at the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Japan, and was approved by their animal use committee.

The marmosets were bred at CLEA Japan, an animal supply company, and reportedly involved litters that contained more than two infants. Six marmosets were removed from their mothers soon after birth. They were placed into individual cages in a separate animal room, ensuring no visual or auditory contact with their parents, and hand-reared by staff. After 4 weeks, these infants were group housed. Five other marmosets were allowed to be reared by their parents until they were about 11 months old. They were then removed from their parents and, along with the six who had been deprived of their mothers after birth, were killed in order to get their brains for further study. The researchers found that there were changes in brain biochemistry, which would have made the marmosets susceptible to brain diseases.

What is particularly tragic is that the researchers were aware that hand-reared marmosets exhibit behavioural abnormalities, including abnormal vocalisations, excessive attachment to the caretaker and aggressive behaviour. Despite this, the researchers carried out the experiment, undeniably causing great suffering and distress by cruelly depriving not only the infants of their parents, but also the parents of their infants.

Research using non-human primates involving maternal deprivation has been taking place for decades. Such research in non-human primates – and the recognition of the lasting behavioural and psychological harms it causes – has been widely condemned, including that currently being done using rhesus macaques at Harvard Medical School in the USA (https://animal.law.harvard.edu/news-article/cruel-monkey-experiments/).

Reference:

  1. Shinohara, Haruka; Meguro-Horike, Makiko; Inoue, Takashi; Shimazu, Miyuki; Hattori, Machiko; Hibino, Hitoshi; Fukasawa, Kazumasa; Sasaki, Erika and Horike, Shin-ichi 2024-01-03 Early parental deprivation during primate infancy has a lifelong impact on gene expression in the male marmoset brain Scientific Reports 14(1):330