for National Geographic News
In April 2005 Karen Killmar, associate curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo, received of one the most unusual phone calls of her life. A man on the phone wanted to know how much monkeys are worth as pets in South Africa.
Killmar was immediately alarmed.
"I refused to do that," Killmar said.
"Number one because we don't put a market value on animals, and [number two] we don't want to create a market for them. I told him even if I had prices, I wouldn't give that to him."
But when the man told her what he had33 monkeys of 5 different speciesKillmar thought there might be a chance to give the monkeys a better home at zoos in the U.S.
"They were species that we worked with," Killmar said. "Certainly some new animals would help keep our populations healthier." The man on the phone was a South African businessman who had dealings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (See Congo map).
There he found monkeys on sale at local bush-meat markets, where wild animals are sold as food.
Knowing what fate awaited the animals, the man bought 33 of the monkeys, built a quarantine facility, and tested them for diseases so they could be imported legally into South Africa.
"He went through quite a bit of effort to get these animals moved into South Africa," Killamar explained.
When Killmar received the man's phone call, she started to consider finding homes for the monkeys in U.S. zoos to save the animals from being sold as pets.
The orphaned monkeys, ranging from one to five years old, arrived in the U.S. in March and are now housed in six zoos around the country.
So far, all of them seem to be liking their new homes.
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