The government has allocated 1 million shekels ($284,000) to find homes for the long-tailed macaque monkeys from a central Israel farm that has been ordered to shut down within a year.
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Mazor Farm, which has been selling the monkeys to laboratories abroad for medical experiments for more than 20 years, is no longer economically viable because of regulations signed last year by then Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan. These prohibit the export of wild animals from Israel for the purpose of experimentation, as of January 1, 2015. The domestic demand for monkeys for medical experiments is minimal.
Attempts to place the 1,300 farm-bred monkeys with zoos around the world have run into difficulty because zoo officials "claim they aren't interesting, colorful or rare enough," said Gali Davidson, head of the animal protection division of the Environmental Protection Ministry.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has approved a deal to sell 120 monkeys to a lab in the United States, but the sale has yet to be finalized. A move by several businessmen to buy the monkeys and set up a reserve for them appears to have fallen through for lack of funds.
Mazor Farm, located south of Petah Tikva, is legally authorized to export the farm-born monkeys until the ban goes into effect. But Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has prohibited the farm from exporting any monkeys born in the wild and banned any further breeding.
The 650 monkeys on the farm who were born in the wild — nearly all of these were caught on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius — have been found new homes, with 300 going to a nature reserve in an unnamed African country and the rest to the monkey sanctuary in central Israel's Ben Shemen Forest.
The government would not say which African country was taking the monkeys, pending a decision that the transfer is in accordance with the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Since the farm can no longer breed or sell the monkeys born in the wild, it says it has no objection to giving them away.