Vets take a shot at reducing monkey numbers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 January, 2002, 12:00am

Monkeys in country parks are to be sterilised to tackle the booming primate population and stop them straying into urban areas in the New Territories.

Veterinarians aim to begin rounding up monkeys next month to sterilise them by injection. The trial will target a clan of monkeys in the Kam Shan Country Park.

Monkey numbers in the New Territories have been growing at between five and eight per cent a year and could reach more than 2,000 in five years, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

About 1,400 monkeys live in country parks such as Kam Shan, Lion Rock, Tai Mo Shan, Tai Po Kau and Shing Mun.

The monkeys - to be rounded up in batches of about 20 at a time - will be injected on the spot and then released back to the clan about two to three hours after the effect of anaesthesia wears off.

Treated monkeys' ears will be notched with microchips attached for identification.

David Burrows, a senior veterinary surgeon from the department, said the monkeys' sex lives would not be affected by the treatment, which carried no side effects.

The effect of sterilisation could last for six years for females and would be permanent for males.

The trial will begin late next month and the sterilised monkeys will be closely monitored for pregnancy rates in the clan group during the breeding season from October to March.

If the birth rate is successfully suppressed, the treatment could be extended to other clans. The department has yet to set a figure for an optimum monkey population in Hong Kong.

Professor Nora Tam Fung-yee, a member of the Country and Marine Park Board, said she feared monkeys could become more aggressive after treatment.

'It is not sure whether it would affect their hormone levels. So there might be a chance that their behaviour could be changed,' the professor said.

Since 1999, the feeding of monkeys has been outlawed except for limited feeding by people holding licences issued by the department.

However, population growth has remained strong in recent years.