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Tuesday September 11, 2007
THE problem posed by “urban” monkeys
highlights the lack of a management plan,
and this has allowed the problem to deteriorate
over the last 20 years.
The genus Macaca shares the same problem
throughout its range state – one that is
created by man.
“Many people are coming into contact
with macaques for the first time and need
to be educated on the proper ways to minimise
interaction,” wrote Dr Ardith Eudey
of the World Conservation Union’s Action
Plan for Asian Primates.
Eudey said Hong Kong and Singapore
have embarked on positive educational and
control programmes. Malaysia, he added,
has the economic resources to initiate a
constructive programme rather than resort
to destructive actions.
He has invited Malaysia to participate in
the next Congress of the International
Primatological Society to be held in
Edinburgh in August 2008, when the pest
problem posed by macaques will be examined
Critics are not convinced that rounding
up macaques in urban areas is a long-term
solution as the fundamental problem of
habitat loss would remain unresolved. Take
the case of Barbados. Despite trapping and
exporting 10,000 vervet monkeys for
research over 14 years, crop raiding has not
been reduced and the monkey population
remains stable due to high breeding rates.
Some think it is a ruse to obtain wild
specimens, which are preferred for
research purposes. Eudey pointed out that
“urban” monkeys are not desirable as they
have been in contact with humans.
“A country such as the United States
wants clean monkeys, meaning captivebred,
for research purposes,” he said.
Former Wildlife and National Parks
Department (Perhilitan) director-general
Mohd Khan Momin Khan said it was a misconception
that there was a demand for
macaques caught from urban areas.
“Urban monkeys are known to have
tuberculosis and assorted intestinal diseases.
They do not make good test subjects
and are not appealing to exotic food
importers. Eventually, senseless poaching
of wild monkeys will ensue to fill the
demands of importers,” he warned.
Mohd Khan, who helmed Perhilitan
between 1972 and 1992 and was instrumental
in getting the 1984 trade ban, said
the decision to legalise export has undermined
the hard work of primate conservation
“India and Bangladesh are maintaining
the ban. Only the Philippines and Indonesia
are exporting captive-born monkeys following
strict international guidelines.
Malaysia will be the only country to drop
out of this international pact and become a
monkey exporter,” he said.
Exploitation of wild population
A source said with a price tag of RM250
per macaque, indiscriminate hunting will
rule. He claimed that Perhilitan had never
embarked on a thorough sterilisation programme.
As a short-term measure, he suggested
a combination of culling and sterilisation
to contain the problem in high conflict
Although Perhilitan is drafting guidelines
on the capture and export of the longtailed
macaque, many doubt that it will
have sufficient resources to monitor the
Conservationists and animal rights
activist prefer culling to reduce the number
of long-tailed macaques, saying it was a
more humane solution than trading the
monkeys for use as food or medical testing.
They fear that profit may motivate the
decision to allow export of the animal.
“The very fact that the Malaysian government
has ruled out culling suggests that
there may be financial motivation involved.
It also looks like the government is
attempting to create an export market,”
Mohd Khan questioned the assertion by
the authorities that “it is better to export
than to cull”.
“Better for whom?” he asked. “Follow
the money trail and trace who the benefactors
Last week, Minister of Natural Resources
and Environment Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid
candidly told participants at a climate
change workshop that he had been
approached by “some bright people who
saw that money could be made from
Sources said the proposal to export monkeys
came up prior to the retirement of
Perhilitan director-general, Datuk Musa
Nordin, last October.
In a telephone interview, Musa said he
was “indirectly involved” in the trade but
declined to comment when asked if he had
teamed up with a wildlife trader.
When pressed further, he said: “Go talk
to Perhilitan. They’re the one making the
policy. I’ve retired.”
Sources reveal that at least one company
has submitted a business plan to the ministry
proposing an export volume of between
12,000 and 20,000 monkeys per year. Each
shipment will carry between 2,000 and
The business plan lists the likely buyers
as two laboratories and one breeding centre
in China. One of the laboratories is
Kunming Primate Research Centre, which
is affiliated to the Chinese Academy of
Sciences. The centre was set up in 2005 as
a research base for experiments against
infectious diseases and bio-terrorism. – By
Hilary Chiew and S.S. Yoga
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