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Monday, March 28, 2011

Monkey misery: Inside the 'shameful' Thai theatre where guitar-playing macaques string along the tourists

By Chris Parsons

Cruel: A male macaque monkey, Kai Lek, holds a toy guitar while chained to a leash as a laughing tourist watches

At first glance it may appear like a harmless holiday fun, cute monkeys performing a succession of tricks for amused tourists.

The star performers at Samui Monkey Theatre bounce around playing musical instruments and interacting with visitors to their show in southern Thailand.

But these happy pictures disguise a different story - and scores of tourists have taken to travel website tripadvisor to describe their disgust at the appalling treatment of the animals.

The same male monkey continues to hold the blue instrument while clearly attached to a rope leash behind his back

Viewers of the show on the Thai resort island of Koh Sumui described the performance as 'shameful' and 'horrific' after watching trained and physically weak monkeys perform demeaning tricks while stood in their own excrement.

While some tourists appear to find the lengthy animal show hilarious, others vented their shock at what they saw inside the theatre.

Male and female macaque monkeys are made to hold small guitars and throw balls into basketball nets, all the time with rope leashes around their necks to minimise their movement.

Others are forced to interact with tourists and are abused and pelted with stones if they do no perform.

A monkey at the animal theatre in southern Thailand is made to perform a basketball 'slam dunk' from the bare concrete floor of his enclosure

'Shameful': Another male macaque monkey is made to shake hands with a tourist during the Monkey Theatre 'performance'

Tourists who see the Monkey Theatre show are allowed to feed the animals, although several have since told how the monkeys they fed 'looked like they hadn't seen food for days'.

One outraged British visitor, 'PhatButcher', gave the 'attraction' a one-star rating on tripadvisor, writing: 'Myself and my girlfriend went to Monkey Theatre not really knowing what to expect.

'Whilst walking round the streets of Koh Samui and getting approached by numerous locals offering to take our pictures with so called 'tame monkeys' (probably sedated) we maybe should have followed our instincts in that on the whole animal welfare is not high on the agenda in Thailand.

'But surely a Monkey Theatre, making their living from monkeys and showcasing them to the public would be different.

'Surely it would be in their interests to care for the monkeys and have an interest in conservation. WRONG!!!

'It was one of the most appalling places I have visited.

'There is a cute little monkey convieniently (sic) placed at the entrance for you to play with and feed bananas but what followed was nothing short of horrific.

'The monkeys were held in painfully small bare concrete cages that obviously hadn't been cleaned in a very long time as the floor was covered in their own excrement.

'Further down the line of cages were some older monkeys each in individual cages that were nothing short of prison cells with thick iron bars, concrete walls and a carpet of excrement.'

The 90-minute show is described on a Thai tourism website as 'highly amusing' and a 'great place to take kids', with monkeys completing three performances each day.

But viewers have demanded refunds from the event and have been largely disgusted by the conditions the monkeys live in.

Another user on tripadvisor, 'wilystoat', wrote: 'I went here out of curiosity to see how well or otherwise the animals were kept, and was appalled at what I found.

'As I very gently approached each cage the monkeys would retreat to the back of their cages and cower, which suggests that they're used to being badly treated.

'As for the 'show' it consists of a male and a female monkey being made to carry out ridiculous demeaning tasks which are an insult to these creatures. They both look dreadfully miserable throughout.'

The show's organiser, monkey 'teacher' Prawat Rukduang, seen here kissing one of his monkeys, has dismissed the complaints of horrified tourists who have seen the show

Internet users claimed that when they approached management at Monkey Theatre to complain about the animals' cramped conditions and treatment, they were told the monkeys 'sleep that way in the wild' or that they looked miserable and underfed because they were 'old'.

'ShinerCork', another British traveller who witnessed the show, said: 'I just wanted to let anyone who is travelling to Koh Samui know about the monkey theatre there. I was there a few weeks ago with my family and it nearly reduced me to tears.

'The monkeys are in cages and as soon as you approach they are screeching for food.

'I know animals will always take food that is offered but it seemed like they really depended on the tourists to feed them. They grabbed the bananas and nuts like they hadn't seen food for days.

'There were some monkeys in cages at the end of the row and they looked really sick. One was literally skin and bone, when my sister in law asked what was wrong with him she was told that he was old.

'Doesn't sound like a reasonable explanation to me.'

Koh Samui is one of Thailand's most popular resorts and is the country's third biggest island.



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