Wild Monkeys Safe From Trapping in 2013

Posted on January 31, 2013

Animal Protection Groups Concerned About Future

For immediate release

Megan Backus, ALDF

(Photo by Anne Hamilton)

OCALA, FL — The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) are welcoming a halt to the trapping of wild monkeys living along the Silver River and Oklawaha River in North Central Florida, although the monkeys may enjoy only a temporary reprieve.

Rhesus macaques at Silver Springs State Park, on Cross Florida Greenway properties and at the Silver Springs theme park, may not be trapped in 2013 for the first time in at least 15 years. Since 1998, only one trapper, Scott Cheslak, of Beaufort, South Carolina, has trapped and removed monkeys for sale to research and testing laboratories. According to Cheslak, between 1998 and 2012 he trapped and removed 800 monkeys.

An open records request filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund revealed that in October 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture alerted the Florida Park Service that Cheslak had sold monkeys to a research facility without possessing the dealer’s license required under the Animal Welfare Act. As of December 2012, Cheslak had not met federal standards to be issued a license. In follow-up inquiries, the Florida Park Service confirmed that Cheslak does not currently have a state permit to trap and remove monkeys at Silver River State Park or on the Cross Florida Greenway.

"Although the monkeys may be safe this year, we recognize that this may only be a temporary reprieve from trapping," said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "We will continue to work toward a permanent end to the trapping of monkeys for the research industry at Silver River State Park and on other state lands."

In 2012, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida urged the Florida Park Service to consider alternatives to the trapping and removal of monkeys, such as a program in which monkeys would be trapped, sterilized, and returned to the environment.

"The trapping and removal of monkeys fails to address the issue long-term," said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. "We hope that the Florida Park Service will take another look at ways to reduce the monkey population which are not only humane, but are also more effective."

The recently returned public records also reveal that the potential threats posed by the wild monkeys to the health and safety of park visitors, and the negative impacts on native species, have been overstated. In addition, there is disagreement about the size of the monkey population. In early 2012, the USDA suspended work on an Environmental Assessment of the monkey populations after they concluded, "there is not enough information on the negative impacts of this population to warrant our continuation of the draft environmental assessment."

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, visit aldf.org.

About the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida

For over 20 years, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has been one of Florida’s strongest voices for animals. ARFF is located in Fort Lauderdale, but active statewide. Online at ARFF.org.

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