Cash-strapped Sri Lanka considers exporting 100,000 endangered monkeys to China

The toque macaque is endemic to Sri Lanka and classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list


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Published: Thu 13 Apr 2023, 3:51 PM

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka is exploring the possibility of exporting 100,000 endangered monkeys to China, one of its largest bilateral lenders, the agriculture minister has said.

The toque macaque is endemic to Sri Lanka and classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister Mahinda Amaraweera has asked officials to study China’s request to procure toque macaques, news portal Economy Next reported on Wednesday.

“They want these monkeys for their zoos,” the minister was quoted as saying.

The minister said the request for 100,000 monkeys to be exhibited at over 1,000 Chinese zoos could be considered, given the large macaque population in the country, the report said.

No financial details were made available so far, it added.

A special discussion was held on Tuesday on dispatching monkeys to China under the first phase of the programme, the Ada Derana news portal reported.

The discussion headed by Minister Amaraweera was also attended by officials from the Agriculture Minister, Department of National Zoological Gardens, and Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The meeting was informed that the current monkey population in Sri Lanka has reached nearly three million and the animals were a menace to local crops.

The appointment of a committee to study the legal procedures for the programme was also discussed.

The request from China has been made at a time when the local authorities have taken several measures to contain the monkey population, the report said.

Sri Lanka bans almost all live animal exports and the proposed sale comes at a time when the country faces its worst-ever economic crisis.

The country, however, removed several species from its protected list this year, including all three of its monkey species as well as peacocks and wild boars, allowing farmers to kill them.

Sri Lanka will look to fulfil this request from China considering that Beijing is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest bilateral lenders.

China on Wednesday said it was willing to negotiate a medium and long-term debt disposal plan with Colombo in a “friendly manner” to enable the crisis-struck island nation to achieve debt sustainability.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing was committed to waiving off the principle and the interest of the debt for two years.

“As a bilateral official creditor, the Export-Import Bank of China has clearly stated in the financing support document issued to the Ministry of Finance of Sri Lanka that it will extend the maturity of Sri Lanka's debts due in 2022 and 2023,” Wang said.

In January this year, China gave debt-ridden Sri Lanka the financing assurances required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock the bailout package, days after India strongly backed the island nation's efforts to secure the loan from the global lender to recover from its worst-ever economic crisis.

In March, the IMF approved a $3 billion bailout programme to help Sri Lanka overcome its economic crisis and catalyse financial support from other development partners, a move welcomed by Colombo as a "historic milestone" in the critical period.

The IMF bailout, the 17th in Sri Lanka’s history, was approved following prolonged discussions over Colombo's unsustainable debt.

Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking a major political and humanitarian crisis in the island nation.

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