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Anger at bid to fly monkeys to Australia for Pirates of the Caribbean film

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3ead5d8c-1d24-4780-a4c4-b4efd3d4af9d-1020x612By Oliver Milman from The Guardian

The trip from California to Australia would stress the monkeys, groups say, and Pirates of the Caribbean 5 could be made ‘without the need to exploit animals’
capuchin monkey

Wednesday 18 February 2015 03.10 GMT
Last modified on Wednesday 18 February 2015 15.59 GMT

Animal rights groups have urged the Australian government to prevent the transport of two capuchin monkeys to Queensland to perform in Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, is considering whether to allow the monkeys to enter Australia for the latest instalment of the movie franchise, which is being filmed on the Gold Coast.

Production companies Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer have applied for a permit to bring the female and male monkeys, aged 19 and 20 respectively, to Australia.

The monkeys are set to perform in the role of “Jack the monkey”, a pet owned in the films by Captain Barbossa, who is portrayed by Geoffrey Rush.

However, three animal welfare groups have called on Hunt to reject the application, claiming the long journey from California to Australia will unduly stress the animals and that primates performing in films is inherently unnatural and cruel.

According to a Department of Environment assessment of the application to import the monkeys, the animals will arrive in Queensland on 9 March and be taken to purpose-built facilities on the Gold Coast set and held in “secure mesh and steel enclosures within a fenced compound”.

In July the animals will be transported in crates, by air, to Port Douglas and “used in a filmed sequence on a film set”.

The application says the animals will be “freely handled by their trainers and restrained by leashes when outside of their designated living quarters for the purposes of training and filming”.

The Department of Environment has proposed conditions on the import permit, stipulating that the monkeys be used only for filming, that they should not be allowed to have sex with each other or have contact with monkeys of any species.

The Humane Society International Australia, Wild Futures and the Captive Animals Protection Society have urged the monkey transfer to be halted. They claim the journey will harm the monkeys’ health, that movie performances are unnatural for wild creatures and that the appearance of monkeys in films encourages the illegal wildlife trade.

“It is not too late for the Pirates of the Caribbean production team to commit to end the use of wild animals in the entertainment business,” said Cordelia Britton, the campaigns officer at Wild Futures.

“Capuchin monkeys naturally live in large family groups in the rainforests of South and Central America and have complex physical and psychological needs. A film set is no place for such an intelligent, social animal and the life of a monkey ‘actor’ is sadly far removed from the life they should have.

“With the technology currently available, fantastic films can be produced without the need to exploit animals.”

Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at HSI, added: “The journey is stressful enough for people who choose to make it. We think it’s unnecessary to put monkeys through this. We no longer need to use monkeys in this way for entertainment purposes. Australia should set a good example on this issue.”

As capuchin monkeys are not found in the wild in Australia, they are officially classed as an exotic pest and have to receive special permission for their import.

The $250m production of Pirates of the Caribbean 5, featuring Hollywood star Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, has been lauded for the potential economic benefits it will bring to Queensland.

The film, the biggest ever to be shot in the state, received $21.6m in federal funding to encourage producers to pick Queensland as its location.

A Department of the Environment spokeswoman said: “This application is being assessed and a decision is expected shortly.”

Disney did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

A capuchin monkey: they are classed as an exotic pest in Australia and must get special permission to be imported. Photograph: Brad Wilson/Getty Images

For more on this story go to: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/18/animal-rights-groups-condemn-plan-to-import-monkeys-for-pirates-film

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