By Uditha Jayasinghe
COLOMBO (Reuters), – Sri Lankan officials are considering a proposal made by a Chinese firm to export 100,000 endemic primates to China. The announcement sparked the protests of animal rights groups.
Bandula Gunawardana (Transport Minister and Cabinet Spokesperson) said the island’s agriculture ministry has appointed a panel to evaluate a proposal for 100,000 toque macaques – found only in Sri Lanka – to be exported to China to be displayed in Chinese zoos.
Gunawardana said at a press briefing that the discussion was not between the Sri Lankan Government and the Chinese Government, but rather with a Chinese Company. He did not name the company. “The committee is going to evaluate the proposal.”
The move has caused alarm among environmentalists and wildlife conservationists. They have warned that monkeys might be moved to labs instead of zoos.
According to the organisations, China only has 18 zoos. Each zoo would need to accommodate 5,000 monkeys.
Macaques with their humanlike qualities are particularly popular in medical testing facilities across the USA and Europe. Four conservation groups said that the potential income from a trade of this kind would be much greater than from selling macaques to zoos. “Is this the direction these macaques’ are heading?”
They demanded toque macaque habitats are protected and the proposal discarded. The government should also allocate resources for the study of the monkeys’ behavior and to reduce harvest losses. This is the reason given by the Agriculture Ministry to consider capturing the animals and exporting them.
(Reporting and editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Uditha Jayasinghe)