Following the Sri Lanka Agriculture Ministry’s affirmation of a request from a Chinese firm to import 100,000 toque macaques for his or her zoos, environmentalists have mounted protests over fears that monkeys could also be used for medical experiments or as a meals delicacy.The toque macaque (Macaca sinica) is a primate endemic to Sri Lanka however can be an agricultural pest that usually causes appreciable harm to crops reminiscent of coconuts, greens and fruits; the ministry is contemplating attainable options, together with inhabitants management.Meanwhile, a latest examine signifies the presence of toque macaques on 80% of the tropical island, however specialists say the federal government’s declare of a monkey inhabitants of three million is an exaggeration.On the opposite, some farmers and villagers in monkey-infested areas have responded positively, saying the removing of 100,000 toque macaques from the surroundings will be the start of an answer.
COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s animal-human conflicts are on the rise with growing crop raids, however a latest request from a Chinese firm requesting 100,00 toque macaques from Sri Lanka has fueled a contemporary debate on wildlife exploitation.
Crop harm by wild animals has posed a major problem to many individuals, particularly farming communities, and a report final 12 months estimated an general lack of 30.215 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($93.6 million) in the course of the first half of 2022.
The toque macaque (Macaca sinica) tops this record of pests with coconuts being essentially the most affected crop. As Sri Lanka appears to be like for options to the issue, an announcement by Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera a couple of Chinese firm’s needs to import 100,000 macaques has resulted in an enormous outcry from animal rights activists and environmentalists.
“The minister says the animals might be exported for some Chinese zoos. However, there are only some zoos there with the flexibility to accommodate this many numbers of monkeys. This justly fuels our concern that this isn’t the actual goal and the macaques could also be used for medical analysis,” says Panchali Panapitiya of the animal rights NGO Rally for Animal Rights and Environment. “We know that monkey meat is thought of a delicacy in some components of China. Sri Lankan monkeys could even find yourself on their plates, Panapitiya tells Mongabay. However, it’s now unlawful serve monkey mind in China and violations may end up in imprisonment extending as much as 10 years.
Suspicions had been triggered when latest information experiences urged that China was dealing with a scarcity of experimental monkeys. Other media experiences urged that China was additionally eager on importing donkeys and canine from Pakistan, primarily for consumption.
Toque macaques are identified for raiding crops and homes, intensifying animal-human battle in lots of components of Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of Rukmal Ratnayake.
As the controversy grew, the Chinese Embassy of Sri Lanka issued an announcement denying any involvement of the federal government of the People’s Republic of China in any “monkey imports” from Sri Lanka.
Clarifying, Minister Amaraweera says the request, which got here from a non-public firm, is to be tabled for a cupboard resolution. “As macaques have turn out to be a serious agricultural pest, we have to management their inhabitants, and this request is a chance to get began,” Amaraweera tells Mongabay.
Amaraweera has estimated the macaque inhabitants to be within the vary of three million, which has raised some doubts.
Leading primatologist Wolfgang Dittus of the Smithsonian Institution says there aren’t any scientific experiences to validate the quoted quantity. Dittus made the primary and solely estimate of the toque macaque populations again in 1977. That examine estimated the inhabitants to be fewer than 600,000.
There are three acknowledged subspecies of the endemic toque macaque: the dry zone toque macaque (M.s. sinica), moist zone toque macaque (M.s. aurifrons) and highland toque macaque (M.s. opisthomelas). The 1977 survey estimated there have been 439,000 macaques within the dry zone, 150,000 within the lowland moist zone and 1,500 people of the montane subspecies.
The toque macaque (Macaca sinica) is endemic to Sri Lanka and lives in close-knit household items forming troops. Image courtesy of Fonny de Fonseka.
Site-specific, not geographically widespread
Since then, the pure habitats of macaques in all three zones have seen a considerable discount of about 50-70%, suggesting a proportional decline of macaque populations of their pure habitats, says Dittus.
However, the macaque inhabitants has had exponential progress round some human settlements as a result of accessibility of meals sources prior to now 30-50 years linked to an upsurge in tourism and financial improvement. These inhabitants explosions are site-specific and never geographically widespread, and so they have two adverse penalties. First, macaques are most quite a few close to human habitations the place they arrive into battle with individuals. Second, in such locations, macaques are very conspicuous and create a misunderstanding of being overrun by too many macaques islandwide, Dittus tells Mongabay.
Meanwhile, a 2021 examine carried out by a crew led by Jennifer Pastorini of the Center for Conservation and Research (CCRSL) assesses that toque macaques are distributed in additional than 80% of the island. This evaluation was based mostly on a questionnaire-led survey, and doesn’t present any indication of densities, or the abundance, of species, says Pastorini. For conservation and administration, taking the noticed distribution as a baseline, finer-scaled surveys ought to be carried out for in-depth findings, the researcher says.
The conservation standing of the toque macaque has been included within the IUCN International Red List as endangered. The Sri Lanka National Red record positioned the toque macaque underneath the least concern class in 2012 however the more moderen evaluation, which remains to be in press, acknowledges its standing as “weak,” says Dittus, who was concerned within the nationwide purple record evaluate.
Wolfgang Dittus, scientific marketing consultant with Chameera Pathirathne, and Sunil Rathnayake, scientific assistants, observe some monkeys within the Anuradhapura ruins. Wolfgang has been finding out the macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for almost 50 years. Image courtesy of Disneynature.
“Whatever the explanations, exporting monkeys is just not a good suggestion and there’s no authorized provision to take action,” says Rohan Pethiyagoda, a taxonomist and a naturalist who earlier served as deputy chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. A authorities that allows this export goes to have egg — and numerous monkey poop — throughout its face, Pethiyagoda tells Mongabay.
Human-monkey battle has been a problem for a while now, and as a substitute of sudden “knee-jerk” reactionary options, Sri Lanka ought to plan to face the battle correctly, says Sumith Pilapitiya, a former director normal of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Pilapitiya remembers that specialists collaborating with a number of companies have ready a “Strategy to Conserve and Coexist with Sri Lanka’s Monkeys — 2016 to 2026,” which incorporates detailed actions and budgets, with a number of companies pinned with the duty of implementing recognized actions. Had this occurred earlier, the issue may have been lesser at present, Pilapitiya tells Mongabay.
Commonly discovered toque macaques (Macaca sinica) are the smallest species of Macaca, a golden-brown coloured Old World monkey endemic to Sri Lanka. Easily distinguished by the toque-shaped swirl of hair, there are three subspecies of toque macaques: these discovered within the dry zone (M.s. sinica), moist zone (M.s. aurifrons) and the highlands (M.s. opisthomelas). Image courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle.
Culling not an answer
The actual technique for coping with human-monkey battle lies find mechanisms to cut back battle between people and primates. “Our researchers based mostly in Polonnaruwa in addition to others, have handled these points for a lot of a long time and have advisable nonlethal strategies to cut back battle,’ Dittus mentioned.
However, farmer organizations and native communities dwelling in locations the place monkey raids are common have welcomed the proposal to export monkeys. “We don’t care which nation the monkeys are exported to as they destroy our crops and raid our properties frequently, making life extraordinarily troublesome,” says Pandukabhaya Rajakaruna, head of the Podujana Farmers’ Association. He counters the views expressed by environmentalists as being far-fetched and never grounded in actuality, particularly as a result of they don’t must dwell in monkey- infested areas and should not have to expertise each day property harm and crop raiding. “It is straightforward to romanticize from far, however these affected by these monkey populations solely know the difficulties, “he says.
Whether the monkey exporting occurs or not, the particular committee set by the Agriculture Ministry has recognized the necessity to management the toque macaque inhabitants. Other nations use totally different strategies, together with culling, to manage the animal populations based mostly on scientific evaluations. For instance, the Sint Maarten within the Caribbean accepted the eradication of its invasive monkey inhabitants early this 12 months, whereas Australia yearly culls its kangaroos.
But culling to manage populations might be a troublesome wildlife administration choice to implement in nations like Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lankan tradition has a deep reverence for all times, so Sri Lankans won’t help killing of any dwelling beings and this concept his would lengthen to pests even when they’re extraordinarily troublesome to people,” says Pethiyagoda. Organized culling reminiscent of monkey hunts or monkey shoots can by no means materialize, as individuals simply wouldn’t let it occur, he says. “So, there stays solely a single resolution: shield crops as finest you may and get skilled recommendation in doing so,” provides Pethiyagoda.
Pastorini, J., De Silva, M.Ok.C.R., Jayasinghe, L.Ok.A., Fernondo, P., (2021). Island-wide distribution of Sri Lankan primates based mostly on a questionnaire survey of residents. Asian Primates Journal 9(1), 2021.
Dittus, W., (2012). Problems with pest monkeys: Myths and options. Loris 26 (3&4): 18-23, 2012.
Banner picture of toque macaques (Macaca sinica) courtesy of Evarts Ranley.