Sri Lanka has a problem with its endemic macaque, a species that has proliferated so much that many crops are being harmed by its presence, but the solutions it points to the government are controversial and have to do with the idea of satisfying China's voracious appetite. . The Sri Lankan macaque (Macaca sinica) has become the main problem for farmers and producers on the Indian island. In recent months, this species of primate has carried out attacks on some crops, with losses that could exceed $93.6 million in the first half of 2022 alone, according to a study.
According to the data considered by the government of the Asian country, the attacks of the Macaca sinica have caused losses of 93.6 million dollars to agriculture only in the first half of 2022. That is why the authorities welcome the proposal of a company China that wants to import 100,000 macaques, as reported by Mongabay India, which set off alarm among animalists and environmentalists.
“The minister says that the animals will be exported to some Chinese zoos. However, there are only a few zoos there with the capacity to accommodate this number of monkeys,” explains Panchali Panapitiya of the animal rights NGO Rally for Animal Rights and Environment. The organization fears that this is not the real purpose and thinks "that the macaques can be used for medical research."
Given the commotion caused, the Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera says that the proposal is not accepted and will be evaluated by the executive. "Since macaques have become an important agricultural pest, we need to control their population, and this request is an opportunity to start," explains the person in charge, in statements collected by this medium.
The farmers defend that the macaques have become a problem for their crops. Instead, animalists remember that this species was recently included in the International Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, for its acronym in English) and that it is in danger of extinction.
Primatologist Wolfgang Dittus, from the Smithsonian Institution, recalls that in the first study carried out (1977) it was estimated that the population was less than 600,000 macaques.
According to Mongabay India, the natural habitats of macaques have experienced a substantial reduction of around 50-70%, suggesting a commensurate decline in macaque populations in their natural habitats.
However, this contrasts with the growth of populations around some human settlements, an increase that is related to the accessibility of food sources in the last 30-50 years linked to an increase in economic development.
Another 2021 study from the Center for Conservation and Research (CCRSL) pointed out that macaques were distributed in more than 80% of the island and did not provide any indication of the density or abundance of the species, according to those responsible for the investigation.
"Whatever the reasons, exporting monkeys is not a good idea and there is no legal provision to do so," the former vice president of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, Rohan Pethiyagoda, told this outlet.