One year on, the strongest condemnation of UNESCO’s cruel monkey circus is their own

20 October 2017

A year after being alerted to animal abuse at a UNESCO-accredited facility, the UN agency has failed to end the cruelty and finally broke its silence to deny responsibility.

When first informed of cruel animal performances taking place at a UNESCO-accredited facility in Vietnam, the organisation’s condemnation was swift and unequivocal.

Animals Asia told UNESCO about the cruel circus shows – in which chained macaques are forced to ride bicycles – in October 2016 and received a letter in November that year which said:

“This was a violation of bio-ethics and eco-ethics, and was unacceptable, especially at a biosphere that was accredited by UNESCO, and should be completely shut down.”

Yet one year later, the macaques at Can Gio Bio-reserve continue to be forced to perform humiliating and unnatural tricks daily for the entertainment of tourists.

An estimated 200 macaques are forced to perform across a dozen or so entertainment parks, zoos and tourist attractions in Vietnam.

Footage taken by Animals Asia in October 2016 shows blindfolded macaques forced to ride bicycles and cowering in fear from the ringmaster’s whip.

In that footage, a macaque called Queenie has clearly visible wounds on her face and can be seen biting her own legs to cope with the fear and stress she endures every day at the UNESCO-accredited facility.

Even a clearly sick domestic dog was forced to limp through degrading performances and hobble through rings of fire.

Animals Asia confirmed on October 8 this year that the performances continue, yet UNESCO offices in Vietnam, France and the UK have failed to deal with the problem.

A further letter from UNESCO on October 17 recommended that Animals Asia liaise with the Vietnamese authorities and Can Gio management on the matter.

The latest footage taken by Animals Asia shows macaques still being pulled on to the stage by chains around their necks and forced to walk on stilts, ride bicycles and perform acrobatics.

Queenie was not seen, raising fears for her health and well-being.

After the performance, visitors are encouraged to take a selfie with a pig-tailed macaque – also chained by the neck so that his handler can more easily control him.

Since Animals Asia's previous investigation highlighting animal cruelty, the facility appears to have ceased forcing the dogs to jump through rings of fire.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“UNESCO’s lack of action over the last year is in complete contrast with their own words. They said it was completely unethical, should never take place at a UNESCO reserve and should be shut down – yet it continues.

“They have known about this for a whole year now. Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition begging them to make the cruelty stop. But they have done nothing but pass the buck, and as a result, the animals continue to suffer.”

An Animals Asia petition urging UNESCO and the Can Gio Bioreserve to end the circus performances has been signed by more than 34,000 people – yet the cruelty continues.

Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, who was recently awarded a prestigious Animal Hero Award in the UK, said:

“What is happening at Can Gio can never be acceptable. The fact that it is taking place at a UNESCO-accredited facility is sending an absolutely appalling message to the entire country and essentially gives a green light to animal performance abuse in Vietnam.

“UNESCO said all the right things when first informed about these appalling shows, but actions speak louder than words. Right now, UNESCO’s actions sanction the confinement, humiliation and exploitation of animals for entertainment.”

Can Gio, famed for its mangrove forests, is one of nine UNESCO accredited reserves in Vietnam and received its UNESCO status in 2001.

You can help end the cruelty, sign the petition today and tell UNESCO and Can Gio to end the suffering and stop forcing macaques to perform.