LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A change to a primate law could mean that we'll see more monkeys across the state. It's all because of accreditation rules, signed into law by Governor Hutchinson on Wednesday.
"Well it makes us equal to the Little Rock Zoo," said Leon Wilmoth with Wild Wilderness Drive-through Safari in Gentry, Arkansas.
Back in 2013, state legislators prohibited the possession and breeding of certain primate unless an institution was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). But House Bill 1551, signed into law on Wednesday, broadens the pool to include additional accrediting organizations and includes the language "without limitation."
"We think that it's too broad, that definition, any accrediting association that means the door is wide open," said Susan Altrui, spokesperson for the Little Rock Zoo. "It means that any organization can call themselves a zoological organization and can house primates."
That would include the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), which Altrui believes is more flexible when it comes to accreditation. On the flip side, Wilmoth believes the AZA is too restrictive and is pleased that his ZAA accreditation will now be recognized.
"They are more flexible when it comes to individual rights," he said. "The AZA would come up here and tell us you cannot breed your kangaroo for four years and the ZAA will not do that."
But Altrui said she views the AZA's additional restrictions as a safer way to operate.
"Because we are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the public has the knowledge that our primates are kept safe," she said.
State law prohibits private citizens from owning certain primates including gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and macaques. But Altrui fears the new exemption could be a way around that rule.
"We think that this will even mean that people can have a pet chimpanzee in their back yard where they may not have had before," she said.
But in Wilmoth's opinion, the ZAA accreditation is more complimentary to family-owned zoos and businesses. And without that accreditation, he says they can't make a living.
"They just don't pass them out," Wilmoth said. "We do this because we like it, this is what we were born to do"
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