In France, the trafficking of magot monkeys is still relevant

“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, having a magot monkey became fashionable,” recalls Yann Huchedé. It is the only species of ape that has known such a craze. At the time it was very easy to cross the border with this type of little monkey. Customs officials even had fun. Tourists returning from North Africa were being duped – and some are still being duped – by traders who sold primates under the cloak. They are promised that the monkey will stay the same size and that if they don’t buy it, it will end up being sold to a research laboratory. The monkey then finds himself at the bottom of a suitcase, full of sleeping pills during the trip.

“In 2003, we collected about thirty Berber monkeys. Today, there are more formalities, the regulatory framework has been strengthened and customs agents are better trained to recognize species that need authorization, notes Yann Huchedé. The proportions are smaller, but we continue to receive them. This year, we took care of two. The latter was discovered during a search by gendarmerie and the National Hunting and Wildlife Office at a location used by drug traffickers in Orne. “Initially, we were called to retrieve an emu and a wallaby, but in total there were thirteen animals representing eleven different species: snakes, turtles, frogs, birds… and monkeys, including an 8 or 9 month old magot, locked up alone. in a room, and that we recovered. »

The magot, very present in North Africa, is the only species of monkey that lives naturally in Europe (in Gibraltar, in southern Spain). However, it is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). “This allowed the wild population to become abundant again, especially in areas shared with local human populations, which created tensions”, explains Yann Huchedé. Berber monkeys can damage crops, so the parents are sometimes killed, and the offspring, attached to the parents, are retrieved and then sold for a hundred euros. »

Honey, the nest egg is good. However, it is neither a cat nor a dog: it climbs everywhere and gets everything dirty. And it doesn’t get better with age. “As he grows, his behavior changes and he asserts himself more and more, warns the director of the Arche refuge. From the age of 4, his nature drives him to impose his domination on the humans around him. In adulthood, at 6 or 7 years old, he represents 12 kg of muscle and is extremely powerful. »

“In the early 2000s, a lot of people called us asking us to come pick them up. [leurs singes], because it became impossible to live with them, says Yann Huchedé. Usually, the owners ended up locking them in a room in the house so they would stop damaging everything or attacking them. These nest eggs therefore grow on their own. However, they need to live in a group with their peers. This social isolation can drive them completely crazy. “Resocializing these animals takes years, it is a whole process of readaptation to their congeners that must be put into practice. »

When the Arche refuge retrieves a monkey, it is first placed in a sanitary quarantine for three months, in order to verify that it has not contracted any disease transmissible to humans (zoonosis). Then, he follows a path of integration to be resocialized with his peers (first, just by eye contact, then physical, through a grid and, finally, by direct contact). But places are expensive: “We’re running out of space, because we’ve already received about thirty packs and another 150 primates. Therefore, we work in collaboration with other French shelters, such as the Tonga terre d’accueil association, but also in Europe thanks to the European Alliance of Rescue Centers and Sanctuaries (Ears) network of sanctuaries, of which we are members, to avoid euthanasia. “Sometimes, the refuge only supports individuals for the time it takes to find a permanent place for them, alongside congeners of the same species, and establish the roles necessary for their transfer.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible to release them in the wild”, laments Yann Huchedé. Many of them have spent their entire lives in captivity and therefore have not learned to be self-sufficient. Also, your original environment is not necessarily favorable. “Should they be released in a place subject to human destruction and/or subject to poaching? Finally, there is the financial criterion. Releasing these animals would require very expensive reintroduction programs. However, for almost all species hosted in the Arche refuge, wild populations are certainly protected, but doing well. “Only highly endangered species benefit from international funding for their reintroduction. In these current conditions, our animals are therefore forced to remain in captivity. Our daily life therefore consists of ensuring that it is in the best possible condition. »

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