The Sri Lankan government is currently considering a proposal from a Chinese private company to export 100,000 endemic toque macaques, a species found only in Sri Lanka, to China.
This news has sparked concerns among animal protection groups who worry about the well-being of these primates.
The island’s agriculture minister has assembled a committee to assess the proposal, which suggests sending the toque macaques to Chinese zoos.
However, Cabinet Spokesperson and Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardana emphasized that this is not a negotiation between the Sri Lankan and Chinese governments, but rather with a private Chinese company.
Environmentalists and conservationists are alarmed by this proposition, as they fear the monkeys could be destined for labs instead of zoos.
This concern arises from the fact that China has only around 18 zoos, which would need to house approximately 5,000 monkeys each. Macaques, known for their human-like qualities, have been especially popular in medical testing facilities in the United States and Europe, raising additional concerns about their fate.
Four conservation organizations released a joint statement questioning the ultimate destination of these macaques and urging the government to discard the proposal altogether.
They advocate for the protection of toque macaque habitats and the allocation of resources to study the monkeys’ behavior and reduce harvest losses. The latter issue has been cited by the agriculture ministry as a reason to consider capturing and exporting the animals.
While the proposal may generate revenue for Sri Lanka, currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in over seven decades, the potential risks to the macaques’ welfare must also be taken into account.
The current situation underscores the importance of balancing economic interests with ethical considerations, particularly when it comes to protecting unique and endangered species.
This article by Josie Fu was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 1 May 2023.
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