Monkey business in Goa
by Tanja Larsen, IAR Goa
This year a new and very sad phenomenon arrived on the beaches in North Goa: the trade in baby bonnet macaque monkeys. The traders would parade the monkeys around the beach until some one - usually a tourist - would offer to pay to buy the monkey so it could be handed over to IAR. The babies were sold for around RS 2000/- (roughly £26.) Although the purchasers were acting with the best of intentions, it only made matters worse as suddenly the traders saw a way to make a lot of money fast. In three weeks six baby bonnet macaques were rescued from the Calangute / Baga beach stretch and three had been bought by tourists. The others were forcibly seized, either by IAR staff or by tourists who refused to pay but equally refused to let the trader keep the monkey.
It soon became clear that a big problem was brewing and IAR stepped in immediately and got co-operation from the local police in arresting and prosecuting the people behind this evil and highly illegal trade. Initially IAR staff went undercover on the beaches and spent hours in the baking sun walking up and down the coastline in search of the culprits. When this proved unsuccessful flyers were printed and handed out to tourists on the beaches and in resorts and restaurants urging people to make contact with IAR or the police should they have any information about the traders. It was a delicate situation since there was always a risk that the wrong people might find out that an investigation was going on and inform the traders, thus scaring them off before they were caught. But it was a risk that had to be taken.
Sadly no one was ever caught selling the baby monkeys and the traders seemed to disappear as quickly as they had emerged. The question remains as to whether they simply had a batch of monkeys to sell and then called it a day, or whether they knew they were being investigated and decided to move to a different area. No reports of baby monkeys have come to IAR since the capture of the six monkeys. Although it’s good that the trade seems to have stopped, it’s frustrating to know that the people behind this money-making business are still walking free.
The monkeys are now kept in a newly-designed and very spacious monkey pen at the residence of IAR founder John Hicks. They can’t be released into the wild at this stage as they are unable to fend for themselves, but it is hoped that they will be able to undergo a gradual release process and learn to adapt to life in the wild under supervision until they are fit to look after themselves.