THE Guardia Civil in Alicante has announced a health alert after discovering that a marmoset monkey seized in an anti-animal trafficking investigation has tested seropositive for HIV.
Investigators are now searching for 42 other marmosets that came into contact with the infected animal, which is also carrying the cancer-inducing human T-lymphotropic virus.
The whereabouts of the potentially infectious primates are currently unknown, meaning their owners are potentially putting the lives of themselves and others at risk according to the Guardia’s nature protection arm, SEPRONA.
The marmoset was one of 25 confiscated by SEPRONA during an operation which took place several months ago, and resulted in the arrest of four suspected animal traffickers from Alicante, two from Murcia and one from Sevilla.
The gang offered the illegally-traded monkeys to pet stores, which secretly sold them on to private individuals for €1,800-€2,000 each.
Documents recovered during raids on the suspects’ homes showed that 67 individuals of four marmoset species had been sold, of which only 25 have been accounted for, and it is likely that owners are unaware of the risk of infection.
Five of the monkeys seized were already dead, and the Guardia Civil have issued an urgent appeal for owners to step forwards and hand their pets over to the authorities.
Possession and breeding of primates and other exotic animals without a license is illegal in Spain, with hundreds having been seized in the last twelve months alone.