Feeding monkeys could cost $10,000

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 1998, 12:00am

Feeding the monkeys will draw a stiff fine from early next year.

Agriculture and Fisheries Department chiefs are to crack down on the practice in an effort to bring the burgeoning population of rhesus and long-tailed monkeys under control.

There are now as many as 800 monkeys running wild - a one-third jump in the primate population since the last count in 1992. The department says the rapid population growth is being fuelled by an unnaturally high intake of 'human' food, which decreases mortality rates and boosts breeding.

Offenders caught by department officers feeding monkeys with their favourites - fruit, peanuts and potato crisps - will be hit with a maximum $10,000 fine.

Tai Po Road, Lion Rock Country Park and Kam Shan Country Park have been identified as target areas. After a public awareness campaign over the next two months, people caught feeding primates could face a summons.

Officials are also concerned about attacks on tourists and thefts of food by increasingly confident monkeys, who have become used to human company.

Dr So Ping-man of the department said: 'When the monkeys get used to humans it causes a lot of potential danger, such as people being scratched.

'If they can get food easily, they don't have to spend time foraging around. The food is rich, which leads to a rapid growth in the population. It decreases mortality and it might be the case that it gives them more time to reproduce.' Monkeys usually eat wild plants and small insects.


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