A PET monkey escaped from its owner in Paphos’ Mouttalos on Monday, attacking five women before its owner killed it.
The deputy head of veterinary services, Andreas Papaefstathiou, said that based on reports they believed the owner shot his pet Vervet monkey. “Someone told us they heard a shot,” he said.
Vet services received word of an escaped monkey early but by the time police and the services arrived in the area, the animal had already been killed.
The women, who happened to get in the monkey’s path after its escape, were prescribed antibiotics at Paphos general hospital’s accident and emergency department and then released.
A post mortem on Tuesday will establish the monkey’s cause of death and determine whether it carried any diseases that could be dangerous to the women who were attacked.
It was not immediately clear whether the pet’s owner was arrested or not.
Vervet monkeys are small black-faced monkeys that are widespread in Africa, tolerating a variety of habitats and not considered endangered. The import of any monkeys and chimpanzees as pets is illegal in Cyprus, Papaefstathiou said. However, there is no comprehensive legal framework making explicit which animals may or may not be imported and/or traded in Cyprus and under what terms.
The trade in exotic animals remains largely unregulated, although animal welfare laws prohibit abandoning or freeing any animal dependent on humans, and lay out the obligations of anyone who keep animals, as pets or otherwise. Critics say the laws are not strictly implemented.
Animal welfare group ARC/Kivotos, which has helped to transport a number of exotic animals from Cyprus to more suitable homes abroad, has condemned the killing of the animal which was “possibly scared” and may have been reacting in self-defence, the group said.
“Who will assume the responsibility of this situation? The little monkey was shot and killed by its owner before veterinary services arrived with an anaesthetist. A tragic outcome which should not just be passed over as if it was nothing,” ARC/Kivotos said in a written statement.
The group called for a ministerial decree obliging all exotic pet owners to declare what animals they hold, for the benefit of the public which may be vulnerable to animal-to-human diseases.
“We are currently trying to regulate the phenomenon through animal welfare laws and are in the process of registering pets,” Papaefstathiou said.
He added the veterinary services are working on a legal framework that should be available by the end of the year, to regulate the trade/ownership of pets and enlist which animals will be allowed to be sold as pets, and which will not. “Why the delay? Up until recently there was no organised group of pet shop owners to negotiate with,” Papaefstathiou said. Pet shop owners are now organised and as a stakeholder group have been working alongside the vet services, he added.
He could not immediately say what the law’s provisions would be regarding any exotic animals already on the island but acknowledged this was one of the issues they would need to address.
Three years ago, ARC/Kivotos helped move a three-year-old Vervet monkey to an exotic animal sanctuary in Amsterdam, after it started displaying aggressive behaviour. The pet’s owner saw the monkey in a Paphos pet shop and caved in to pressure by her children who were keen to adopt it as a pet. The pet shop charged about €2,000 for the pet, but offered no advice on how to care for the animal. Vervet monkeys live for about 20 years in captivity.
Further back in 2,000, a pet monkey was shot dead by its owner in Famagusta’s Paralimni after it broke out of its cage and bit two men trying to lock it up.