British photographer David Slater says he has been financially drained by the bizarre legal case over whether he, or the endangered crested black macaque, own the copyright to the photograph.
The 52-year-old from south Wales told theTelegraph that although his photograph of the grinning monkey is famous around the world, his income is only around £100 every few months from image sales.
Mr Slater, who specialises in wildlife and conservation photography, couldn’t even afford a flight to America to be at a court hearing on Thursday.
He said: ‘Everything I did to try and highlight the plight of the monkeys has backfired on my private life. I’ve had my life ruined.’
Mr Slater travelled to Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011 to take pictures of macaques.
He claims that he mounted the camera on his tripod and then persuaded the animals to press the shutter while looking into the lens.
In 2014, Wikipedia published one of the pictures without Mr Slater’s permission.
But when he asked them to take it down, the website refused on the grounds that the copyright belonged to the animal.
The US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Mr Slater in 2015.
He is now considering abandoning his career as a photographer and becoming a dog-walker or tennis coach instead.
‘I am just not motivated to go out and take photos any more,’ he said.
But despite the pain the photographs have caused, Mr Slater said he did not regret taking them and is ‘absolutely delighted’ with the positive impact they have had on the species.
He said: ‘No one had heard of these monkeys six years ago, they were down to the last thousands.
‘The locals used to roast them, but now they love them, they call it the ‘selfie monkey’.’