|Govt abandons monkey export plans|
|Feb 2, 08 3:25pm|
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has abandoned its controversial plan to export monkeys found in urban areas after a majority of them were found to be infected with deadly diseases.
According to NST, minister Azmi Khalid said the decision was made after the discovery that about 80 percent of urban monkeys had contracted diseases and were deemed unfit for export.
In August last year, the government said it would end a 23-year-old ban on trading monkeys for research and food as well as conducting talks with several countries including Japan for possible export.
However, animal rights groups objected and said the monkeys would be sold to laboratories for a profit benefitting the minister instead.
Yesterday, Azmi said that about 80 per cent of the 250,000 long-tailed macaques found in urban areas were found to have deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and Aids.
He said the export was to fulfil the demand for exotic meat in a few countries in Asia and in the west.
"A study of 2,000 macaques in urban areas conducted several months ago found that 80 per cent of them were infected.
"Only 20 per cent were healthy, and of this, only half the number were suitable for export," he said adding that the diseases could possibly spread among the human population.
According to veterinary experts, humans could be infected with diseases carried by the monkeys if there was close contact.
Monkeys could also be infected with diseases contracted from humans if the animals licked human spit.
Azmi added that the ministry feared that the move to export monkeys would encourage companies to hire agents to seize the monkeys which might lead to uncontrolled hunting of the animal.
Veterinary experts have previously called for relocation programmes, reproduction controls and public education to stop residents from feeding or teasing the animals.
They also opine that the monkey problem occurred in many major cities throughout the country due to the massive destruction of forests that has pushed the wildlife to seek shelter and food in urban areas.
The monkey population in the country is about 700,000, with 250,000 in urban areas.
The monkeys usually found at the urban areas include the long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and the leaf monkey.