An appeal by animal protection group Cruelty Free International to help keep Mauritius monkeys in the wild has won the backing of a number of leading travel companies.

Thomson, First Choice, Virgin Holidays, Kuoni and STA Travel have joined Thomas Cook in raising concerns with Abta.

The association has now agreed to act on behalf of its members to discuss the potential impact on tourism of the monkey export trade with the government of Mauritius.

No legislation exists to protect the monkeys of Mauritius from being exported overseas for experiments.

Cruelty Free International chief executive, Michelle Thew, said: “We are delighted that holiday companies Thomas Cook, Thomson, First Choice, Virgin, Kuoni and STA Travel have responded so quickly to our concerns and welcome Abta’s decision to appeal to the Mauritius Government.

“The country’s international reputation as a paradise island for tourists is being tarnished by its involvement in the cruel trade in monkeys. We urge the Mauritius government to recognise this and to make its country a paradise for both people and monkeys.

“We are now urging holiday companies around the world to support our call and raise their concerns with the Mauritius authorities.”