Joint Media Release
THE LIFE OF 100,000 MACAQUES AT STAKE
As per the printed media, the Government of Sri Lanka is to capture, confine and sell 100,000 Toque Macaques (Macaca sinaca; S. Rilawa), to China – allegedly for display in its Zoos!
As with elephants, leopards and others, the claims are made that
a) They are increasing in number. As with other species, no comprehensive island-wide census has been carried out to establish this claim.
b) As with these other named species, human-wildlife conflict has increased exponentially over the past few decades due to unplanned development, and the destruction of natural habitat.
c) Whatever Sri Lanka does, some species of Macaques are on the IUCN’s critically endangered list.
d) As per globally accepted criteria for the definition of Zoos, in China, there are just 18 that fit the bill. This averages out at 5,000 macaques per Zoo. This is not credible.
e) Capturing 100,000 macaques will take considerable effort and financial resources. Why have such funds been unavailable for research into the causes and the formulation of preventive measures to deal with human-monkey conflicts, and for the payment of compensation for those who do suffer loss?
Looking behind the claims
The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on China’s trade in wild species for medical tests, for products destined for human use; particularly drugs and cosmetics. Macaques, with their human-like qualities have been particularly popular, especially with medical testing facilities in the USA and Europe. The potential income from such a trade would be far greater than that from the sale of this species to Zoos. Is this where these macaques are headed? To live out the rest of their lives in tiny, closed cages while various potentially harmful substances are either injected into, or smeared on them? Does this conform to the ethics of that precious,ancient philosophy that is still supposed to guide the peoples of this Nation?
In 2022, the Minister of Agriculture boldly stated that despite the losses from the human-monkey conflict,that he would not authorize the killing of macaques. So are the authorities in Sri Lanka now intent on getting a third party, in this case China, to do this for them – to not just have killed, but tortured as well? Will this leave the hands of those in authority free of the blood and guilt?
- Look to science and research
Rather than look to earn ‘blood money’, would it not be better to use the resources available to instigate a thorough study of the problem, by qualified researchers and scientists, to find solutions through the understanding of macaque behaviour and habitat? Sri Lanka has some of the finest in this field, such as Dr. Wolfgang Dittus, who has devoted much of his life to the study of these fascinating animals, and is renowned the world over for his expertise. The Agricultural extension units in our rural areas would be best suited for such studies. Financial resources are saved by the implementation of effective ways to safeguard crops. If immediate remedy is needed, and as referred to earlier, would it not be better to set up mechanisms for the payment of fair compensation for those who lose their crops to macaques? After all,resources are available to capture 100,000 of them!
Some of the largest populations of Toque Macaques, those who have learned to live off the supposed largesse of humans are close to religious sites; the Sacred Temple in Kandy, the Sacred City of Anuradhapura and elsewhere. Are these intelligent, human-like creatures to be hunted in their holy precincts too, for sale to China and, perhaps, then to medical laboratories?
Surely it is time to end knee-jerk reactions to problems for which solutions may be found through knowledge and understanding. If worthwhile political solutions are to be given on Nature, then they must be made on the basis of science and research, and not with potential elections in mind. For if the wrong decision is made, Sri Lanka will suffer for it, for generations to come, and the damage caused may be irretrievable.
This is a time for Statesmen not for cheap politics!
Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS) 0777766846 Spenser Manuelpillai
Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) 0777600503 Hemantha Withanage
Federation of Environmental Organizations (FEO) 0777753975 Yohan Weerasekera
RARE Sri Lanka 0766405745 Panchali Panapitiya