Sri Lanka has confirmed China’s request for importing 1,00,000 endangered monkeys even as strong protests from environmental groups over the move have erupted in the cash-strapped island nation.
According to a report in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror Online, the top bureaucrat in agriculture ministry Gunadasa Samarasinghe today revealed that the toque monkeys are to be taken to China for breeding purposes. He said that a privately-owned Chinese company connected to Zoological Gardens which are animal breeders had made the request to his ministry.
Last week, Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that China’s request for 1,00,000 monkeys to be exhibited at over 1,000 Chinese zoos could be considered.
“They want these monkeys for their zoos,” the minister was quoted as saying.
The move has alarmed environmentalists and conservationists who have warned the monkeys could be headed to labs rather than zoos in China, even if it earns some scarce dollars for the country facing its worst economic crisis in more than seven decades.
The organisations say China has only about 18 zoos, which would have to house about 5,000 monkeys at each and that does not seem plausible.
“We will not send the whole 100,000 in one lot. But we considered the request due to crop damage caused by the monkeys in several parts of the country. They will not be taken from forests and conservation areas. The focus will be only in the cultivation areas”, Samarasinghe told journalists.
The toque macaque monkey is endemic to Sri Lanka and classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.