Monkey better off with its own kind in new home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2000, 12:00am

The interest expressed by your correspondents Ana Lee, JoAnne Law (letters, South China Morning Post, June 3) and Michael Foong (Post, June 5) on the case of a seized monkey is appreciated.

We are sympathetic to Chan Yat-biu and mindful of his feelings in this case. However, we must also consider the other factors and facts of the case in taking the difficult decision not to return the monkey to Mr Chan. Wild animals such as monkeys are not suitable to be kept as pets, particularly in such a densely populated urban environment as Hong Kong. The behaviour of wild animals is unpredictable, posing a risk. They could disturb or injure the keeper or his neighbours. In fact, the seizure was a result of a complaint made to us.

Mr Chan claimed he had kept the monkey for more than 10 years, but, in fact, it is only about three years of age.

It is a wild animal and it needs attachment to its kind to learn the skill of survival.

The animal is now living in our animal management centre and is in the company of an adult female which is taking good care of the monkey and teaching it the various skills of a normal monkey.

Our observations indicate that it is adapting well to the present environment and has developed a close bond with the adult female.

On May 31, Mr Chan made an impromptu visit to our management centre to see the monkey. Our staff were mindful of his needs and promptly responded to his request. Mr Chan may visit the monkey from time to time if he so wishes. We also informed the Social Welfare Department about Mr Chan's case and he was visited by someone from the department who offered him the necessary assistance. However, Mr Chan said he had no need for such assistance.

A monkey is an endangered species protected under the Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance. Mr Chan knows that a licence is required for the keeping of a monkey, and that such a licence is issuable on proof that the animal has been legally obtained. Mr Chan has been unable to prove where the monkey came from and does not have a licence. Returning the monkey to him when he has breached the law would place our credibility as a law enforcement agency at stake.

Furthermore, legalising an illegal act knowingly committed would set an undesirable, if not dangerous, precedent. It would also send the wrong message to the public - that wild animals can be kept as pets so long as they are 'properly' cared for. We have tried our best to administer the law and at the same time to be as considerate as possible.

C. C. LAY for Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation