Sri Lanka backs down from sending 100,000 endangered monkeys to China
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera explains that China intended to disperse the monkeys between 1,000 zoos across the country, taking it as a solution to the animals destroying crops.
After causing outrage and a court case by animal rights activists, Sri Lanka stated on Monday that it was withdrawing from plans to export almost 100,000 endangered toque macaque monkeys to China.
An endemic and a common animal to Sri Lanka, the toque macaque is classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said this month that China intended to disperse the monkeys between 1,000 zoos across the country, taking it as a solution to the animals destroying crops.
However, Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) relayed to the Court of Appeal that the action filed by 30 wildlife and environmental activists could be terminated.
A win for wildlife conservation
"A state attorney informed the court on behalf of the DWC that no monkeys will be exported to China or elsewhere," a court official told AFP, which wildlife enthusiasts welcomed with warmth.
"This is an excellent outcome for wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka," they said in a statement.
The sale was supposed to come in light of Sri Lanka's current bankruptcy, as it was forced to secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund in March as a result of defaulting on its $46 billion foreign debt.
Meanwhile, media reports claimed that China's part of the sale was for medical research.
Monkeys are regarded as pests in Sri Lanka because they ruin crops, assault settlements in search of food, and even attack humans.
This year, Sri Lanka delisted many species, including all three of its monkey species, as well as peacocks and wild boars, from their protected species list, enabling farmers to slaughter them.
Toque macaques are officially estimated to exist in numbers between two million and three million in Sri Lanka, but some activists claim that number is highly exaggerated.
According to lawyer Jagath Gunawardana, one cause of the growing human-animal conflict, notably with monkeys and elephants, is agricultural growth, which is diminishing wild animal habitats.