In some regions of the world, pig-tailed macaques are intentionally bred and trained – often with punishment – to harvest coconuts. Monkeys are chained by the neck and trained to pick only ripe coconuts and are then forced to do so, day in, day out and all day long. During training and beyond, the monkeys are tethered or caged 24/7, sometimes with little to no opportunity for socialisation. (Socialisation is extremely important for the development of monkeys).
The monkeys are always tethered to their “handler” and are not permitted to eat the coconuts they collect. Due to their ability to work for long hours, the macaques are capable of collecting 600-1,000 coconuts per day, compared to only 100-200 for humans. The monkeys can often get so tired from picking coconuts that they faint and when they are not working, the animals are often chained to tree stumps or kept in small cages.
Sometimes the monkeys are offspring of berok (already trained monkeys); sometimes they are caught in the forest with nets or traps. Often though, nursing mothers are shot and their babies are taken. The monkeys can start training at one or two years old.
Monkey used to collect coconuts in Surat Thani, Thailand
They begin by learning to spin coconuts attached to sticks and plastic ropes using their two legs and a hand, mimicking the process of picking a coconut from a tree. People prefer monkeys that use both their hands and legs. Ones that use only their hands won’t be resold at a good price.
In Thailand a well-trained monkey can fetch as much as 70,000 baht (£1270) and some monkeys can start picking coconuts as early as one month after they start training on the ground. Due to their aggressive nature, the monkeys wear a muzzle during training.
No monkeys are used to pick or harvest the coconuts used to extract Lucy Bee Coconut Oil. Our producer from the Philippines says “In the Philippines, it is not custom to utilize monkeys or any other animals to collect coconuts from the tree. Harvesting method is either manual (climbing) or using bamboo pole.”
With regard to our Solomon Islands oil, there are no monkeys in the Pacific islands. “Our Pacific coconut farmers do all the work of collecting, carting and selling the coconuts themselves and both they and the coconut oil producers are paid a fair wage for their efforts. This is part of our fair trade charter.”
And our Sri Lankan oil producer commented “Sri Lanka, being primarily a Buddhist country, practices kindness to all living things. I have not witnessed these types of practices in Sri Lanka although wild monkeys do sometimes picks coconuts for their own consumption.”
A recent chat with Dr Winfried Fuchshofen, Director of Fair TSA confirmed that as part of our Fair Trade charter, no child labour or animal cruelty is permitted.
There are charities which support the banning of exploitation of animals in this way and you can donate here, if you so wish.
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