Release of ex-pets
Pet macaques are likely, as they mature, to become unmanageable and dangerous. For this or other reasons, they may then be confined to small cages, or chained, or their owners may no longer want to keep them at all. This sometimes results in ex-pet macaques being released into the wild. Similarly, either for lack of options or as a quick “fix”, government officials or overcrowded rescue centers will sometimes release confiscated macaques, often without consideration of the impact that this can have on the local environment, the welfare of the individual monkeys, or the relationship between local people and local wildlife in the area.
Release of ex-pet monkeys can be done successfully, with good welfare for released monkeys and minimal impact on the local environment and inhabitants. But even when time, care and resources are dedicated to such projects, success is not guaranteed. Suitable habitats with plentiful enough resources to sustain the released individuals must be identified. Extensive rehabilitation and preparation for release is usually necessary; monkeys who have lived much of their lives in captivity may not have the skills they need to survive. Details health screenings must be carried out in order to avoid introducing disease into local populations of wildlife. Sterilisation should be considered if resources are finite and/or if further releases in the area are anticipated. Post-release monitoring is required in order to evaluate success.
The IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group produced guidelines for primate reintroductions in 2002 (HERE). These guidelines are, however, oriented towards reintroductions for conservation purposes and may not address the unique challenges inherent in the release of rescued individuals. The IUCN’s guidelines for the reintroduction of great apes (HERE) and gibbons (HERE) each contains further (transferable) guidance. No guidelines specific to macaques or monkeys in general have been produced.
This issue is sometimes interlinked with human-macaque conflict. For example, in Vietnam, where habituated ex-pet macaques are often released into the wild immediately following or soon after confiscation, conflict can be exacerbated because the monkeys are likely to see humans as a source of food, and may not have the skills they need to forage for their natural foods. The macaques at Son Tra have been thought to include inappropriately released ex-pets.