Wildlife crop damage exceeds Rs. 30, 215 m | Sunday Observer

Wildlife crop damage exceeds Rs. 30, 215 m

4 June, 2023

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the Ministry’s latest estimates indicated that during the first half of 2022, wild animals destroyed 144,989 metric tons of 28 crop varieties in Sri Lanka, including paddy, vegetables, and a staggering 93 million coconuts, resulting in losses exceeding Rs. 30,215 million. A team from the Chinese firm, Zhejiang Wuyu Animal Breeding Co. Ltd, aiming to import a significant number of toque macaque monkeys from Sri Lanka for exhibition purposes in their zoological gardens, met Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Agriculture Department officials last week.

The toque macaque has topped the list of crop raiders, followed by wild boar, elephant, peafowl, giant squirrel, and porcupine, with five types of crops most heavily damaged: coconuts, paddy, vegetables, corn, and bananas. The farmers have labeled them as agricultural pests.

Minister Amaraweera said a Chinese team had come to Colombo recently to discuss their proposal to import toque macaque monkeys from Sri Lanka to China. Ministry sources said Zhejiang Wuyu Animal Breeding Co. Ltd offered the Department of Agriculture assistance in transporting the animals. The company stated in its letter that it has the expertise and the technological know-how to catch, conserve and transport the animals with the highest standards without harming them. Minister Amaraweera said he could not give any affirmative answer to Zhejiang Wuyu representatives as the matter was currently before the Courts.

The Chinese firm’s request came to the Agriculture Ministry when the Minister was trying to address the escalating population of toque macaque monkeys consistently wreaking havoc on farmers’ crops, including coconuts, bananas, paddy, vegetables, and fruits.

Transport and Mass Media Minister and Cabinet spokesman Dr. Bandula Gunawardena clarified during a press conference that the government has not engaged in any discussions with the Chinese government regarding the export of monkeys. The discussions were held with a company that has made a request from a department. The Chinese Embassy also clarified that their Government had no hand in the matter.

He said exporting wild animals from one country to another typically involves various legal and regulatory processes between the Governments. Dr. Gunawardena said these processes are in place to ensure species’ ethical treatment and conservation.

Amaraweera said he intended to establish an expert committee comprising officials from the Wildlife Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forestry Department, environmentalists, and farmers to evaluate the Chinese proposal.

We asked the Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara about their take on crop raiding by the monkeys. Bandara said they had urged the Government repeatedly to take immediate action to address the problem of toque monkeys decimating farmers’ cultivations.

Agricultural experts in Polonnaruwa told the Sunday Observer that macaque and langur monkeys had destroyed 75 percent of the coconut harvest in Polonnaruwa. They said they break into homes from roofs and take away rice and bread. Animal rights activists, along with the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) represented by Hemantha Withanage, have expressed concerns about the fate of the toque macaque monkeys if they were sent to China.