Sterilisation plan for wild monkeys

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 1998, 12:00am

Sterilisation is being considered as a way to control the fast-breeding monkey population.

Animal scientists are urging officials to consult overseas experts and weigh all options to avoid repeating the kind of problems which occurred during the mass slaughter of chickens.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) has set up an internal group to study ways to curb the increase in the 1,000 macaque monkeys on Kowloon Hill, or at least reduce contact between the wild primates and humans.

Dr So Ping-man, a department conservation officer, said officials were considering feeding the monkeys contraceptives, but had not ruled out killing them.

The monkeys have been reproducing at a rate of 10 per cent a year. They have become more aggressive recently, biting people at Kam Shan Country Park and venturing into urban areas.

Dr So said officials might not need to reduce the population if they found the natural environment had enough food to support the monkeys without them relying on human feeding.

Officials planned to designate places where it would be illegal to feed monkeys. The Wild Animals Protection Ordinance says feeding monkeys in banned places can carry a $10,000 fine, but Dr So said the department had not designated illegal areas as the problem had not become pressing until recently.

Animal scientists and protection groups commended officials for making an effort to resolve an increasingly dangerous situation, though they cautioned that acting without thorough research might lead to more problems.

Gordon Maxwell, assistant professor in environmental studies at the Open University of Hong Kong, said: 'What we don't know is what effect sterilisation will have on monkey psychology or group behaviour. It might be clinically better to just kill them.' Others said sterilisation was by far the most humane and effective way to reduce the primate population.