5 min read

Chained Monkeys Forced To Perform The Same Tricks Over And Over

The image is heartbreaking: A monkey wearing a metal collar with a chain is forced to ride a tiny red bicycle in circles.

He mostly stares at the concrete as he pushes hard to pedal, but occasionally glances up at the audience who is watching from a set of short wooden bleachers.

He seems to know he is expected to keep moving - he does not stop until his handler suggests they are done.

There is a mild round of applause.

That YouTube footage from 2015 shows the everyday tricks monkeys perform at this facility in northern Thailand known as the Chiang Mai Monkey Centre, aka the Mae Rim Monkey School. The monkeys play basketball, knock down coconuts and lift weights at the prompting of their handlers - all while in chains.

A monkey lifts weights while tourists watch | YouTube/openchiangmai

These "cute" behaviors have prompted outrage from tourists, with visitors on TripAdvisor calling it "horrific," "horrible and depressing" and "heartbreaking." Some people noted that they were ashamed to take photographs, and one tourist said seeing such cruelty even ruined her vacation.

When not performing, the monkeys appear to be chained to trees or cages, unable to move more than a foot or two, YouTube footage shows.

A video posted to YouTube in 2010 shows chained monkeys trying to move around - one even does a backflip as he tries to approximate some form of freedom or movement.

When in front of an audience, the monkeys are tethered by a metal "collar" and then led around on the chain. The shows feature many unnatural behaviors during which the animals appear to suffer - during push-ups, for example, handlers hold down the lower half of a monkey's body while he struggles to lift himself.

The exploitation of animals for tourism is not unique to Thailand - it happens around the world. Sadly, many of the animals used in the trade were once free.

"Most animals [used in tourism] have been forcefully taken away from their families in the wild and are very scared and dependent due to basic fear and stress," the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), which helps animals who are victims of the tourism trade, writes on its website.

What's more, monkeys used for tourism receive little or no veterinary care, according to WFFT. "They are malnourished and imprisoned as slaves for their short span of useful life, then killed or abandoned to make way for the next money making animal," the organization writes.

The Monkey Centre did not reply to The Dodo's request for comment.

If you'd like to donate to the WFFT, which helps to rescue animals from the tourism trade, go here. If you'd like to volunteer to care for rescued monkeys in Thailand, go here. If you're in Chiang Mai and want to visit wild animals, consider Elephant Nature Park.