Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is pleased that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is reviewing the licences of pet owners in urban and apartment buildings and hopefully will also stop issuing them licences.
Apartments and industrial areas are not ideal places for the keeping of macaques. Life in captivity would be stressful for the animals in addition to the stress experienced as a result of captivity and confinement.
The other area of concern is the keeping of macaques by villagers for agricultural purpose. These macaques are acquired when they were babies and trained in the skill of coconut plucking. Often they are tethered to a tree with a chain attached to their neck.
Village macaques in a socially deprived environment, often kept on their own with little stimulation, would develop stereotypic behaviour such as pacing or over-grooming as a result of boredom.
The welfare of primates should override all other priorities. The Ministry should look into the appointment of an independent consultation body, made up of personnel qualified, specialised and experienced in primate care, who would be able to advise inspection and enforcement officers on the welfare needs of primates kept. Licence applications by owners should then be subject to a review of the inspection report with recommendations agreed by the body as a whole. Such a system would greatly benefit the work of local authorities, which are overstretched, lack guidance and are demonstrably, and understandably, inconsistent on the issue.
SAM calls for the prohibition of the buying and selling of primates. The practice of keeping of them as pets should also be phased out.