Monkey World assists governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild.

At the Centre refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups.

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Monkey World News

Caged for now, but there is hope

Daily Echo

From the archive, first published Saturday 18th Feb 2006. EACH dawn lovebirds Pung-Yo and Peanut gently wake the slumbering apes who live at Monkey World with their beautiful singing. The golden-cheeked gibbons, who, like the rest of their species will have paired for life, sing their duet every morning to strengthen their bond and soon it is hoped they will start a family together. Looking at them now it is easy to forget that their romance was born in the tragic circumstances of south-east Asia's horrifying illegal trade in rare animals. In 2000 Pung-Yo was among several rare baby golden-cheeked gibbons discovered in Taiwan in dilapidated birdcages in a confiscated shipment of wild animals from Vietnam. The same year Peanut was found at Heathrow, where she had been smuggled into the UK by a British businessman who was arrested and who it later emerged had brought the endangered creature as a gift for his wife. Their rescue signalled the start of an extraordinary journey for the owners of the famous Monkey World, Jim and Dr Alison Cronin. Thanks to their tireless efforts and that of their partners, in the spring of 2007 work will be completed on a rehabilitation centre for golden-cheeked gibbons on a 57-hectare island in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park. It will be the culmination of six years of struggle by the Cronins, who have risked the wrath of the threatening world of the animal smugglers, operated undercover and negotiated with foreign governments in their fight to safeguard the golden-cheeked gibbon, which are native to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The discovery of Pung-Yo and Peanut and later two more golden-cheeked gibbons in France and the Russian Federation, convinced the owners of the Dorset ape rescue centre that they had to do something to fight the smugglers. They began to trace the shipments and discovered one of the main sources was Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam. Posing as tourists, the couple began covertly meeting traders in the city's animal markets where, to their horror, they were offered baby golden-cheeked gibbons for 250 US dollars and endangered douc langurs monkeys for $500 - and told they could buy more to order. Mr Cronin, who set up Monkey World with his wife in 1987, filmed the encounters and the evidence was sent to the Vietnamese authorities, who shut down the pet shops and confiscated the monkeys. "Going into those places was probably one of the hardest things we've had to do," Mr Cronin said. "You see these babies and you know a lot of them aren't going to live much longer, but you have to walk away." Dr Cronin explained: "Most people's gut reaction would be to whip out their American Express or Visa, but by doing something like that you are stimulating the trade and just making the situation worse. It's devastating." It was while carrying out these operations that the couple came up with the idea of trying to set up a rehabilitation centre for rescued gibbons in Vietnam and began talks with the director of Cat Tien National Park. The park, which is 76,000 hectares, is patrolled by more than 150 rangers and is one of the safest nature reserves in the country. "Monkey World is not just about collecting animals and bringing them back to Dorset," Mr Cronin said. "It's about helping the Vietnamese keep their animals where they belong." At the end of 2005 the couple and their Taiwanese partners signed a "memorandum of intent" with the Vietnamese government to build the first ever government-backed rescue centre in the country. The island will be a place where the rescued gibbons can recover in isolation and either be released into the park or, if they are too badly injured, put into captivity. Marina Kenyon, a member of Monkey World's primate care staff, has spent two-and-a-half years in the park, thanks to a scholarship from Cambridge University, studying the behaviour of golden-cheeked gibbons. The information she has gathered about its habits will prove invaluable to the rehabilitation centre when it begins releasing rescued animals back into the park. Mr and Dr Cronin have also continued to draw up a list of targets where golden-cheeked gibbons are being kept illegally in Vietnam with a view to freeing them in the future. A jetty is being constructed on the island, which is on the Dong Nai River, and more than 500 fruit trees have already been planted to feed the gibbons when they arrive. "If in your lifetime you can help preserve one endangered species that would be an amazing achievement," Mr Cronin said. "The most important thing you can do with your life is make a difference. One way to make that difference is to focus and if your lucky you can save one species on the planet." Monkey World will finance the project, its Taiwanese partners will provide much of the technical equipment and the Vietnamese will build and run the centre. "This mission has overcome all political and cultural boundaries because everyone agrees saving the planet's bio-diversity overrides those differences," Mr Cronin added. He said he and his wife would continue to expose rare animal smugglers wherever they found them and vowed to pay for the ticket home for any other species they discover.

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