Nearly 50 starving, dehydrated monkeys were rescued from cages at a garden nursery north of Johannesburg on Saturday.

Spider, capuchin and squirrel variations were among the 49 primates taken away by the International Primate Rescue organisation.

The animals had been kept in cages for the entertainment of people coming to buy plants at the Little Falls Garden Center. Visitors notified the primate rescue group of the poor conditions.

Some of them were so malnourished that their heads were disproportionally large for their bodies and their bones were protruding from their fur. Many were suffering from rickets.

International Primates Rescue (IPR) founder Sue Mousley said after failed attempts by the owner of Little Falls garden centre to improve the living conditions of the monkeys, the rescue team finally managed to get a court order allowing them to relocate the primates to IPR’s care facility.

The monkeys were given little to no food and water while living inside filthy enclosures, Mousley said. “They are still terribly under weight, some of them look a bit dehydrated … the condition of most of those primates is just simply not acceptable,” said Mousley.

“This is clear animal cruelty, no monkey should have to live like this”

She said the garden center once had 96 primates but many had died. Although her sanctuary already houses a large number of monkeys, she said she could not stand by while the nursery starved the animals.

The rescue operation took place in the early hours of the morning after the monkeys were sedated. Some 20 veterinarian students worked as volunteers to help feed and move the monkeys.

The monkeys will be nursed back to health at a sanctuary north of Pretoria, in the coming weeks.

Mousely said three tortoises were also rescued and bird experts have been notified to investigate the conditions for birds at the garden center.

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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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