Concern for Monkeys Kept as ‘Pets’ in Cambodia


‘Pet’ macaque abandoned at Angkor Wat (Facebook)

Action for Primates, Lady Freethinker, and Stop Monkey Abuse Asia are extremely concerned to learn that four monkeys kept illegally as ‘pets’ in Cambodia, who were confiscated from a private household by the authorities in 2022, have reportedly been returned to the household eight months later. We are very disappointed this has happened, despite legislation that makes the private ownership of native wild animals in a residential home illegal, and we fear this may signal a relaxing of the current law.* By returning these four confiscated monkeys, the authorities are sending the wrong message – that keeping wild monkeys as ‘pets’ is acceptable, and that no action will be taken against anyone who does. We believe this will only encourage people to continue to steal wild baby monkeys from their mothers in the forests of Cambodia. It will also negatively impact wild populations of long-tailed macaques, the main non-human primate species kept as ‘pets’ and one whose conservation status was recently increased to Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

This lack of enforcement by the wildlife authorities will also encourage the irresponsible and dangerous trend in people abandoning ‘pet’ macaques at Angkor Wat, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Siem Reap. These macaques, raised in human households and heavily dependent upon people, are being abandoned into the existing wild population at Angkor Wat, primarily to create a ‘drama’ or conflict situation by video operators to film for content to post on social media for ‘Likes’ and ‘Views’ on channels that are often monetized.

The keeping of baby monkeys in human households and raising them as ‘pets’ to use for online entertainment on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, has become a trend. These vulnerable infants, held captive under unnatural conditions, denied the protection of their mothers and family groups as well as their freedom, are paraded in front of the cameras, dressed in human baby clothes for ‘Likes’ and ‘Views’ on social media platforms that are often monetized. These helpless infants are often deliberately placed into frightening and distressing situations from which they cannot escape, and their stress, fear, and terror are filmed for online ‘entertainment. The cruelty, torment, and harm these baby monkeys are subjected to is heartbreaking and the lack of action by the Cambodian authorities and social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, is shocking.

Lady Freethinker, Action for Primates and Stop Monkey Abuse Asia urge Cambodian officials to enforce the legislation against the keeping of monkeys in private homes and to confiscate any illegally held captive monkeys so that they may be relocated to a reputable sanctuary where they may be rehabilitated for release to their natural homes or can at least live the rest of their lives in peace.

* Cambodia wildlife legislation (Forestry Law (2002)) states that the private ownership of native wild animals in a residential home is illegal. Article 50: “It is prohibited to commit the following activities against common wildlife species, except by a permit issued by the Forestry Administration: 1) Stock or maintain as a zoo or in a family house;”