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Monkey World News

What kind of Money Business is this?

Arab News

JEDDAH, 18 April — Tutti is an 18-month-old chimpanzee — playful, energetic and extremely curious.

In the United States, a chimp like her would cost around $20,000, if you could find one.

Here in the Kingdom, however, a chimp will cost you only about SR7,000, and it would be much easier to find.

Some 10 years ago, a group of baby chimps was illegally imported into the Kingdom, and was offered for sale in a local pet store. It caused public outrage, and the result was that the chimps were impounded and a law was issued that banned the future importation and selling of chimpanzees.

Unfortunately, as Arab News discovered this week, this has not stopped the practice of their illegal importation.

Until this day, pet shops and zoos continue to offer up chimps — either for sale or for brief entertainment.

The reason it is illegal to import these creatures is simple: they are one of the many endangered animal species that exist in the world today. While the movement of chimpanzees is strictly regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory, in practical terms the traders have more resources than those whose job it is to put a stop to their criminal activity.

Dr. Ian McLaren, a veterinary surgeon at the Jeddah Veterinary Clinic and Tutti’s current minder, told Arab News: “A chimp of Tutti’s age needs to be with other chimps, or more importantly her mother.”

However, the latter is impossible. It is estimated that for every baby chimp which survives, 10 mothers are shot and nine babies die.


Simple: supply and demand.

Many pet owners, like those who look for chimps here in the Kingdom, are unaware of either local or international laws and regulations, and do not even know that their animals are listed and protected as endangered species.

Tutti’s story, being played out here in Jeddah, has caught the attention of animal activists around the world, including a team which did a documentary for the Discovery channel.

Among the international institutions taking an interest in Tutti’s situation is the UK’s Monkey World. Located in Dorset, Monkey World is a sanctuary for over 130 primates, 56 of which are chimpanzees. It is the largest outside Africa.

The foundation’s co-owner, James Cronin, is keen to come to the Kingdom to assist the authorities in their efforts to stop the illegal trade of chimpanzees, and will hopefully take Tutti back with him to Monkey World.

Many of the chimps brought into the Kingdom are from Africa. Unfortunately, although the rules governing their import meet international standards, in practice they are not universally enforced. Officials in many African countries can be bribed; and once the dealers arrive in Saudi Arabia, if they have connections they are able to get through customs without complication.

“It’s not just chimps,” Dr. McLaren says, “but many other endangered animals as well. I’ve seen all sorts of wild cats, exotic birds and even an elephant, and all have died prematurely because of lack of proper care or malnutrition. I once visited a man at his home — this was a man of modest means — and he had a lioness in his garden in a space a human-being wouldn’t be able to tolerate.”

Indeed, things are little better in the Kingdom’s zoos. When this reporter paid a visit to the Special Creatures Zoo in Jeddah yesterday, it was a deeply upsetting experience. The cages that are home to the animals are filthy, and full of animal feces and discarded food.

According to Dr. McLaren: “The conditions at this zoo are simply abysmal. For a start, there are too many animals in each cage. They are also being overfed. The whole point of zoos is that it allows people in cities to experience animals in their natural environment. It should not be a kind of crude display put on for a little light entertainment. These sort of conditions will slowly drive an animal mad.”

If you would like to help Tutti make her way back to Monkey World, you can make a donation. Visit Alternatively, you can call Dr. Ian McLaren, Tutti’s current keeper, at the Jeddah Veterinary Clinic (2) 6912896. Readers of Arab News are invited to pay Tutti a visit.

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