Since the beginning of the monkeypox epidemic, the Rocamadour Monkey Forest has been regularly questioned about the disease, to the point where an automated message was added to its voicemail. The park states that all of its primates are healthy and that visits are risk-free.
“Our monkeys are monkeypox-free and benefit from regular veterinary care” is the message visitors hear when they call the Monkey Forest in Rocamadour. Because since the monkeypox epidemic occurred, the park has received frequent inquiries about it. “We get a lot of calls about this,” confirms Emma Trichet, head of guides at Monkey Forest. In the park’s car park, Corinne, Valérie and Grégory are preparing for their visit. “The only question we asked ourselves was whether or not the park was closed because of this. But that didn’t stop us from coming,” report these Bretons and Vendée tourists who vacation in the batch.
The park is indeed open and is dealing formally with monkeypox: “There is no risk of coming to us, the population is not affected,” says Emma Trichet. “For decades, zoo primate populations in Europe have been free of MonkeyPox,” confirms Davy Ung, director of the facility. “The few historical cases that have occurred in primates or other zoo animals have been reported all linked to imports from infected African countries in the 1970s. These imports have not existed in zoos for generations as animals breed and are born in zoos. The virus has disappeared from zoos with this change in practice,” he continues.
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A mandatory distance
150 monkeys rub shoulders in the 20-hectare park. All descended from the same species: the Barbary macaque, also known as the magot. “The fact that there is only one species and that there is a lot of space reduces stress and the immune system is more efficient. It reduces the risk of disease transmission from species to species and from one individual to another,” explains Emma Trichet. Although the monkeys are semi-free in the park, visitors are required to keep a one-meter distance from the primates. On the staff side, “we always wear gloves if we ever need to touch them, for grooming or otherwise, and we usually take them to the vet,” explains the person in charge of the guides.
Animal-to-human transmission occurs in the “forested areas of Central and West Africa,” according to the Public Health France website. Monkeypox can also circulate between people, for example through direct contact with skin or mucous membranes. “Even if this viral disease is a zoonosis (Editor’s note: a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa), the contaminations that have occurred in the northern hemisphere since the beginning of May 2022 are the result of human chains only contagion” , states Davy Ung.
According to the June 23 Public Health France report, 330 people have been identified with monkeypox, including 22 in Occitania.