Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monkey business in trade with Saigon

Monkey business in trade with Saigon

Monkey business in trade with Saigon

THE Cambodian Government has approved the export to Vietnam of 360 monkeys captured

in the wild - a move which controvenes internal Government regulations says the Ministry

of Environment.

The "crab-eating macaque" - macaca fascicularis - is listed as a 'Globally

Near Threatened' species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

And the monkey appears in Appendix II of the Convention for the International Trade

in Endangered Species (CITES) which says its trade must be highly regulated.

A spokesperson for the exporters P&C Import Export Co Ltd, who wanted to be known

only as "Peter", said his company has been trying since July 1999 to get

Government permission to sell the monkeys to Vietnam.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) sent researchers

to areas around Tonle Sap Lake where the monkeys live to survey their population.

"And they found out that there are too many monkeys."

The survey was conducted by the Wildlife Protection Office (WPO) under the direction

of MAFF's Forestry Department. In the five-sentence report of the survey, dated October

26, 1999, the WPO stated they saw lots of monkeys which seemed well-fed and were

good swimmers.

A Phnom Penh-based conservationist working for an international NGO said the status

of the crab-eating macaque in Cambodia remains unknown because of a lack of proper

scientific research, but he thought it unlikely the monkey is highly threatened.

Peter said he was told by the company in Vietnam that will receive the monkeys not

to disclose its name. The monkeys raised by the company are exported internationally

for use in medical research. "The company wants to set up a monkey farm in Cambodia,

but before they do that, they want to trial these monkeys at their facility in Vietnam,"

he said.

The breeding center, which is located some 40km from Saigon, covers an area of seven

acres. "It is a very, very nice farm," Peter said, while showing the Post

photographs of the facilities which featured air-conditioned buildings housing monkeys

in small cages.

In the past, monkeys were smuggled out of Cambodia, but the people running the monkey

breeding facility wanted to operate under Cambodian law, he said.

All the necessary paperwork for the export has been obtained from MAFF with final

approval from the Council of Ministers given on February 21, 2000 in a letter signed

by the Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers, Secretary of State Sum Manit.

A spokeperson for the Council said the ministers did not concern themselves with

the technical aspects of export of the monkeys. They simply relied on the research

report from the WPO and recommendations of MAFF.

When the Council of Ministers received the request from MAFF asking to approve of

the export, they just signed the papers.

Although P&C has a certificate from Cambodia's animal health department stating

the monkeys are disease-free, his company is still waiting for permission from the

Vietnamese animal control authorities to allow the export to proceed.

Peter is not sure what the long-term future of monkey exports from Cambodia will

be. To get permission has taken both a lot of time and money, he said.

P&C hired villagers living around the Tonle Sap to capture the monkeys for $10

per head. The monkeys were then trucked to Phnom Penh after P&C obtained a wildlife

transport permit from the Government.

"We caught over 600 monkeys, but many died." When asked by the Post how

many had died in captivity, Peter said: "about 20".

The Hong Kong investors want to set up a monkey breeding facility in Phnom Penh and

MAFF is trying to help. The Hong Kong backers will invest about $3 million, and if

the venture goes ahead, it will probably provide several hundred jobs for Cambodians,

he said.

The MoE's Director of its International and Public Cooperation Office, Kol Vathana,

said: "We don't support these activities. We have a memorandum of understanding

between the MoE and the MAFF dated September 20, 1996.

"Article Nine of this memorandum says any transport or capture of wildlife in

Cambodia is possible only with the authorization of both the MAFF and the MoE. In

the case of the request for the export of [crab-eating macaque], the MoE was not


"We want to strongly express our position that we do not support [the export

of these monkeys]. We want to remind the Council of Ministers that this memorandum

is a legal document.

"MAFF say they do careful studies, but we do not trust this." He said it

is not possible to trust the accuracy of these studies if only MAFF is responsible

for conducting them.

"As a conservationist, I can say that generally in Cambodia the population of

wildlife is less now. Habitats are being destroyed, and whether the species is endangered

or not, wildlife numbers in Cambodia are in decline. Wildlife should not be exported."

The Director of the MoE's Nature Conservation and Protection Department, Chay Samith,

said: "MAFF never have enough data on wildlife, so how can they [allow these

monkeys to be exported]? Based on what?"

"Wildlife is the nation's property and other government departments as well

as NGOs should be consulted and these decisions should not be made quietly,"

said Samith.

Chhea Song, the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, refused to comment.


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