In some regions of Thailand, pig-tailed macaques are abusively trained, often with severe punishments, to harvest coconuts for the export industry. These coconuts are then purchased from food companies and used to produce coconut milk, oil and other products that we consume daily without thinking about how they are produced.
These monkeys are snatched from the wild, abducted from their families and their natural habitat. Most of them are illegally captured when they are just babies, and trained to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day as they are treated like coconut-picking machines.
The poor captive monkeys are tethered by the neck with a rigid metal collar or kept chained and forced to climb up and down trees to collect coconuts they are not even permitted to eat. They are exploited until their labor is no longer useful to the industry.
After being captured, they endure extremely cruel training. There are facilities, real “monkey training schools” as revealed in a disturbing investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia, where the animals are trained to pick fruit. In addition, the trainers earn more money by forcing monkeys to perform for paying tourists. They perform frustrating and difficult tasks such as riding bikes, playing basketball, participating in coconut picking competitions and other tricks to entertain tourists.
Monkeys are chained to old tires or confined in cages that are barely large enough for them to turn around in, while others are left in locked cages on the back of trucks with no shelter from the weather.
This cruel and abusive situation causes frustration to monkeys who are deprived of freedom, and who often display stereotypic behaviors, an indication of extreme stress. They slowly lose their minds, driven to desperation, and often frantically shake their cage bars, scream desperately, and circle endlessly.
Handlers pull out the monkeys’ canine teeth to avoid the possibility of being bitten, in case the monkeys try to defend themselves against this abuse and exploitation.
Now that we all know the awful truth we should stop supporting this terrible industry. Stop purchasing coconuts and related products from farms and major producers that use monkey labor and put an end to this abuse.
Other countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii use mechanical or humane methods to harvest coconuts, without exploiting and abusing monkeys.
Featured image: a trained macaque picks coconuts in a treetop. This image and all images in this article via OIPA.