Pet monkey HIV alert
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.