Image: Monkey Island to serve medical research
VietNamNet Bridge - About 1,000 monkeys are being bred in a semi-wild environment on an island in Quang Ninh province to serve medical research and production of vaccines.
The 22 hectare Reu Island or Monkey Island, located in Bai Tu Long Bay, nearly 3 km from Vung Duc Port in Cam Dong Ward, Cam Pha City, is inhabited by about 1,000 monkeys.
Reu Island is managed by the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Bio-medical Products of the Ministry of Health. It was once a desert island, where several residents planted cassava and sweet potatoes. In 1962 the Ministry of Health turned the island into a monkey farm to serve medical research and production of vaccines.
Monkeys on the island live in groups, numbering 30-50 monkeys/group. Each group has a leader, which is the biggest and strongest male monkey. Each monkey leader lives with 3-4 female monkeys.
The monkeys on the island are the Macaca Mulata species, with average life expectancy of about 30 years. The mother monkeys are pregnant for six months and can give birth seven to 10 times.
Veterinarian Nguyen Thi Ha, 40, who has been working on the island for 20 years, said the food of the monkeys is cooked rice, black beans, soybeans, peanuts and fruits. The monkeys are fed twice a day, at 9am and 1.30pm.
There are 14 workers on the island. Land on the island is fertile but people cannot grow vegetables because the trees will be destroyed by the monkeys after one night. But the monkeys do not touch natural plants.
The period of motherhood of the monkeys is very special. The mother monkeys are ready to sacrifice their lives to protect their children. If the baby monkeys are sick and die, the mother monkeys will hug the dead monkeys for a very long time before burying the body under a tree.
Only kidney cells of the Macaca Mulatta monkey can be used to process the vaccine because this species is less susceptible to pathogens than other species.
The area where the monkeys were selected for testing and vaccine production is isolated. For over 60 years, the island has supplied tens of thousands of monkeys for medical research and vaccine production.
Prevention of an epidemic among monkeys is the top priority, so the island is not open to tourists.