Gov't/NEPA's monkey business
The Editor, Sir;
I read an article on Page 2 of Saturday's Gleaner of January 9 headed 'No monkey business!' and I have two basic thoughts regarding it.
First, this rather vague and vaguely threatening 'notice' was put out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Veterinary Services Division, and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). It advises that a child was bitten by an "illegally imported pet monkey". It further states that "pushed into action by the reports, the ministry yesterday issued a reminder that the importation of exotic pets, including monkeys and snakes, is illegal".
It goes on to warn about life-threatening illnesses that can be spread by "these monkeys" and lists some of those diseases. It then goes further to state that "persons in possession of monkeys or other exotic pets have been given a February 15 deadline to make arrangements for the animals to be safely removed from their premises".
My question regarding this article from the standpoint of illegally imported exotic animals is, what has the ministry/NEPA been doing all this time while highly placed individuals, politicians and their VIP friends, have been illegally importing these monkeys?
Named and arrested
If this were some other less corrupt country, I think that the individual responsible for this particular case of the monkey biting the child would be named, duly arrested and charged, and made to serve time in prison. What is this silence and secrecy surrounding this matter and why have the persons responsible not been brought to light? It is not the average Jamaican who is doing this, nor is it the average Joe or Mary who have for years been getting away with it, as they do not have the money or the power to get what they would like over and above the law.
NEPA and the Veterinary Division have a role to play in educating the public about the dangerous communicable diseases that can be spread by illegally imported exotic animals, including monkeys, snakes, birds, etc., from South America. Rabies would spread here like wildfire considering our local population of rats, stray dogs and cats and the mongoose. Newcastle disease would wipe out our local poultry industry if an avian (bird) comes in infected and the disease is transferred. Educate the people here regarding the inhumane and cruel way in which these animals are brutally captured and transported here by greedy individuals, animals which are not pets, but wild animals caught in the jungle, not bred for the pet industry, and certainly not pets by any means.
My second thought on this matter is that the article needs to be expanded upon and explained in far more detail to make it seem more logical and reasonable, and its intent more clear. Are all the ordinary citizens of this country (the extraordinary ones are, of course, exempt) who have for the past 50, 60 or more years been patronising local pet shops and buying, with their hard-earned money, pet snakes, birds and turtles that are on sale in these places, whose owners have for years legally and with permits, brought in from abroad these captive bred birds, turtle, snakes and fish, etc. - are all the ordinary animal-loving citizens now to have their precious pets that they purchased and have owned for many years "safely removed" by government agents from these peoples' homes before February 15 or feel the "full force of the law"?
If I bought a reptile from a pet shop seven years ago, and have that reptile (say a turtle) as my child's pet and our family pet, feeding it, taking it to the vet for treatment when it is sick, and caring about it and yes, loving it, just the same as other pet owners do for their cats and dogs - am I now to call and have it "safely removed" from my premises by February 15?
And when these pets are "safely removed" - where then do they go, and what will happen to them? I do not think that we need to be rocket scientists to figure that one out.
May we, the ordinary, animal-loving, honest and hard-working Jamaicans, please have some clarity in the media from the responsible agencies regarding this matter, and may we also get some disclosure and action regarding the "untouchables" - big businessmen and politicians and their friends in high places - who are responsible for the illegal importation from South America of wild caught species, and for the unfortunate monkey bite to the (shall forever remain unnamed) unfortunate child?
I am, etc.,