Pet mon­key HIV alert

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - NEWS - By Alex Watkins

A HEALTH warn­ing has been is­sued by Ali­cante Guardia Civil af­ter one of 25 con­fis­cated mon­keys tested pos­i­tive for the HIV virus.

The mon­keys were be­ing raised il­le­gally for pet shops to sell to the public, but 42 more have not been lo­cated and could pose a dan­ger to any­one who han­dles them.

En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers searched three homes and two pet shops in Elche, Tor­rel­lano, Agost and La Algueña.

Of the 25 mon­keys re­cov­ered, five were al­ready dead.

A force spokesper­son said they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing seven sus­pects (four in Ali­cante, two in Mur­cia and one in Sevilla) for al­leged wildlife pro­tec­tion of­fences, be­long­ing to a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, forg­ing doc­u­ments and im­per­son­at­ing a public of­fi­cial.

The mon­keys were be­ing raised in pri­vate homes by peo­ple with con­nec­tions to pet shops. They fetched €1,800-2,000 each on the black mar­ket and the sales could have net­ted €130,000 in prof­its.

All the res­cued pri­mates have been placed in the care of the wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies AAP Pri­mado­mus in Vil­lena and Arca de Noé in Ali­cante.

The mon­keys in­cluded 20 com­mon and black-tufted mar­mosets, a tan­ta­lus and three south­ern ta­lapoins. AAP Pri­mado­mus said the res­cued tan­ta­lus mon­key tested pos­i­tive for HIV and HTLV an­ti­bod­ies, but noted this only con­firms it has been in con­tact with the virus and con­clu­sive re­sults from an­other test are ex­pected soon.

They ex­plained it is be­ing kept in iso­la­tion by spe­cialised per­son­nel at their quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties and is sub­ject to strict med­i­cal pro­to­col un­til the com­pe­tent au­thor­i­ties de­cide on its fu­ture. The Guardia Civil noted that pos­ses­sion of pri­mates is il­le­gal, pri­mar­ily for health rea­sons.

“Al­though they are in­tel­li­gent and of­ten adorable they can carry fatal diseases,” said the spoke­man. “A vet­eri­nary cer­tifi­cate does not guar­an­tee their le­gal­ity, prove­nance or med­i­cal con­di­tion, be­cause most are forged and any checks per­formed are not suf­fi­cient to safe­guard peo­ple’s health.”

Of­fi­cers also con­fis­cated four African grey par­rots, two blue and yel­low macaws, a boa con­stric­tor im­per­a­tor, seven African spurred tor­toises, four pieces of co­ral and a white star­ling. Trade in these species is le­gal but reg­u­lated by the in­ter­na­tional CITES con­ven­tion and they were con­fis­cated be­cause the re­quired doc­u­men­ta­tion could not be pro­duced dur­ing the in­spec­tions.

AAP Pri­mado­mus noted that this case shows keep­ing ex­otic wildlife is po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous and ‘un­for­tu­nately very wide­spread in Spain’.

“Spe­cialised cen­tres like ours are not only needed to look af­ter res­cued an­i­mals but are also the so­lu­tion to a se­ri­ous prob­lem that en­dan­gers public health in Spain and Europe,” they added.

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