Mauritius is famous for its beaches, tropical climate, heritage sites and wildlife. Last month, the island picked up four awards at the 2020 World Travel Awards. There is, however, a dark side to this paradise island of which many holidaymakers may not be aware - the country's role in the cruel global trade and use of its monkeys for research.
A recent proposal to expand the non-human primate breeding industry has caused much controversy and has led animal protection groups Action for Primates and Progress Science Mauritius to appeal to tourists and travel companies to raise concerns with the Government of Mauritius and the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) about the treatment of the country's monkey population. The proposal submitted by Biosphere Trading, one of the country's many non-human primate breeding companies, to increase its capacity ten-fold by capturing up to 1,000 wild monkeys from the forests of Mauritius, is currently under consideration.
Mauritius is already one of the world's largest suppliers of monkeys for research. In 2017, it accounted for 21% of the world's export of non-human primates. There are several companies involved in the breeding and export of long-tailed macaques for research purposes; a business reportedly to be worth over one billion rupees a year. In 2019, these companies exported over 7,000 monkeys to the USA, Canada, France, the UK, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
A further controversy is the development of non-human primate research laboratories on the island. One such facility is a contract testing laboratory called Cynvivo. LCL-Cynologics, another of the breeding and export farms in Mauritius, is a major shareholder and supplies monkeys directly to Cynvivo to be used in tests for various client companies, almost certainly overseas.
Action for Primates and Progress Science Mauritius point to the awareness of ecological and moral issues such as conservation, climate change, human rights and animal welfare, that has been growing rapidly over the past few years. In Mauritius itself, the oil-spill disaster as well as the deliberate sinking of the Wakashio wreck caused an international outcry.
Examples from other countries have shown that animal welfare concerns expressed by tourists make a difference with travel operators. Blackfish, the documentary film that raised concerns about the treatment of SeaWorld’s animals and trainers, led to a decline in attendance, falling profits and a decline in SeaWorld's stock market value. Segments of the tourism industry have also been responding to moral concerns raised by customers about the treatment of animals in certain countries. For example, Intrepid Travel removed elephant rides from its itinerary and STA Travel has prohibited elephant ride tours, visits to the Tiger Temple in Thailand and trips to SeaWorld in Orlando and San Diego.
As Mauritius works to boost its image as a popular destination following the impact COVID-19 had on its tourist trade, Action for Primates and Progress Science Mauritius urge tourists and travel companies to help make Mauritius a paradise for everyone, including the monkeys, by calling for an end to the cruelty and suffering.