The pygmy marmoset is one of the world’s tiniest primates.
But four of the critters are now caught in a diplomatic row between two of the most powerful countries in the world, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
The spat began over human rights issues with the two countries at polar ends of the debate over human rights and secular and religious freedom and the spat is now reaching epic proportions, as the Gulf kingdom has banned four of the Scandinavians’ zoo monkeys from entering the country to make a new home in Riyadh.
Spat over human rights and religious issues
The fight apparently started when Sweden criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. It turned into something more serious when the Saudis blocked Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom from the Arab League meeting in Cairo. She was suppose to give a speech after Sweden recognized the state of Palestine.
Sweden then escalated the dispute by cancelling an arms deal that the two countries have reached. The Saudi diplomat from Sweden was recalled in March and Swedish business executives were told no new Saudi visas would be issued.
Now the troop of four South American pygmy marmosets are the latest salvo between the countries.
The monkeys were supposed to be sent to a zoo in Riyadh, but as Jonas Wahlstrom told the news agency TT, the primates have been rejected.
“They didn’t want any monkeys anymore because of the political situation…The little monkeys were supposed to have gone down there, it had been decided for some time. But then they called over the weekend and said that they had been told by their authorities that ‘Sweden? No, no, we don’t want that’ he said.
According to the Guardian, Wahlstrom’s zoo is known for its pygmy marmoset breeding program. Over the past 25 years Stockholm has sent between 450 and 500 specimens to zoos all over the world to strengthen the chances that the species will survive in its last main habitat in the Amazon.
“I certainly never would have imagined that this would happen, that we would get this kind of ‘monkey business’. But we’ll just have to keep an eye out for when they start issuing visas for businesspeople and try again. Perhaps then they will issue them for monkeys too,” Wahlstrom said.
Dipomatic “monkey business”
The pygmy marmoset is native to Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and northern Bolivia in South America and lives along rivers, lowland forests and bamboo thickets.
It eats the sap from trees and can dash along tree tops and branches like a squirrel.