Letter from the Editor: May 16, 2023

A private company in China requested Sri Lanka to export 1,00,000 toque macaque monkeys to China, which would be kept in Chinese zoos. Endemic to Sri Lanka, toque macaque monkeys are golden-brown in colour with hair on their head that resembles a toque cap.

Mahinda Amaraweera, the agriculture minister of Sri Lanka, announced that Sri Lanka would consider exporting the monkeys to China, which sparked fury among numerous animal rights activists and conservationists. Several protests were held around the country to oppose the idea.

According to conservationists, China has only 18 zoos as per the globally accepted definition of a ‘zoo’, which means Chinese zoos do not have room to accommodate 1,00,000 monkeys. Therefore, it is quite likely that these monkeys could be used for testing in laboratories rather than being exhibited in zoos.

The toque macaque monkey is classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. However, it is also true that this monkey species is known to cause severe damage to crops in various parts of Sri Lanka. There are approximately 3 million such monkeys in the country that have proved to be a menace to farmers.

Sri Lankan authorities are looking at this deal as a method to keep the monkey population in check and protect farm areas. That is why they have considered going ahead with the deal as the country is in the middle of an economic crisis.

As per a statement by Gunadassa Samarasinghe, an official in Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture, the monkeys that will be exported will be from cultivation areas and not conserved areas. An expert committee was appointed by Sri Lanka’s government to study the proposal in detail.

Do you think it is right for Sri Lanka to go ahead with this decision?


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