Primate Rescue Center

Innocent victims of the Year of the Monkey

Erika Fleury February 05, 2016

Below are disturbing pictures of terrified monkeys in a Chinese village, where they have been trained from sunrise to sunset to perform for tourists to make money.

Wearing tight metal collars, the macaques crowd together and look pleadingly at their trainer, who will force them to ride bicycles, handstand on bars, walk on stilts and even catch knives as they balance on a board. This centuries-old, cruel business takes place in the village of Baowan, Xinye county, in China's rural Henan province, where the land is too hard and rough to grow crops.

Xinye county boasts a centuries-long and lucrative history of raising and training monkeys for performance

A macaque monkey catches knives as it works with a trainer at the Qilingang Monkey Farm in Baowan village, Xinye county

Monkey breeding and raising is illegal across China without a proper licence, but with a population of 2,500, Baowan is an exception. As the Year of the Monkey approaches, the villagers are hoping to bolster the already lucrative business.  

Farmers say most of the monkeys are bred and raised for domestic zoos, circuses, and performing groups, but add that some are also sold for medical research in China and the United States

A small temple devoted to the deity of the Monkey King, a popular figure from Chinese folklore and literature, sits on the outskirts of Baowan. 'Since this will be the Year of the Monkey, and we will be putting on (monkey performance) competitions for tourists, we all need to visit this temple and burn some incense,' Zhang Zhijiu, a 60-year-old former monkey busker, said after praying. Despite the popularity of the tradition, critics contend the training methods and conditions constitute animal cruelty.

Macaque monkeys are taught to ride bicycles, handstand on bars, walk on stilts and even catch knives as they balance on a board.

A Chinese monkey trainer teaches his macaque monkey to walk on stilts during a rehearsal for an upcoming show.

Zhang Junran, president of Xinye County's monkey breeding association, admitted that Baowan's treatment of its 400 trained monkeys has been controversial. But he says the situation has changed now, and argues that current methods are humane. 'Our way of training monkeys to perform was not the most educated (in the past). Especially when it came to their living conditions... But these monkeys also have lives, and they have brought us so many benefits, which have made such major changes to our lives. We must be good to our monkeys,' said Zhang. 

Fan Haoran, 57, a trainer at Qilingang Monkey Farm who travelled the country monkey busking for decades, has been training monkeys since his youth. He says the key is to develop a relationship. 'Firstly, you have to show concern and take care of them. Secondly, you must proceed slowly, little by little, and not rush. For instance, when shaking hands - from the beginning, little by little - and then it will remember your hand.

Zhang Zhijie, 57, keeps a four year-old macaque tied on a leash just outside his home. Zhang comes from a line of monkey trainers and has made a small fortune performing across the country. 'It started from my grandfather, then my father, and then it was passed down to me. My kids studied in primary school, and then went college. Their education was completely paid for by money made from our monkey performances,' he said.
But the family business may be coming to an end - his children are not showing the same interest in the family tradition.

- The Daily Mail

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