Sri Lanka on April 20 confirmed China's request for importing 1,00,000 endangered monkeys from the cash-strapped island nation, amidst protests from environmental groups against the deal.
Gunadasa Samarasinghe, the top bureaucrat in Sri Lanka's Ministry of Agriculture said that a privately-owned Chinese company connected to Zoological Gardens which are animal breeders had made the request to his ministry.
“We will not send the whole 1,00,000 in one lot. But we considered the request due to crop damages caused by the monkeys in several parts of the country. They will not be taken from conserved areas. The focus will be only in the cultivation areas,” Mr. Samarasinghe told reporters.
The toque macaque monkey is endemic to Sri Lanka and classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Last week, Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that China's request for 1,00,000 monkeys to be exhibited at over 1,000 Chinese zoos could be considered.
“They want these monkeys for their zoos,” the Minister was quoted as saying.
Sri Lanka bans almost all live animal exports but the proposed sale comes at a time when the country is facing its worst-ever economic crisis.
The cash-strapped island nation has 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.
The toque macaque is known to destroy crops in several parts of Sri Lanka, and even sometimes attacks people.
Authorities in Sri Lanka have pegged the monkey population in the country between two to three million.
Meanwhile, China's embassy in Colombo said that it is unaware of Sri Lanka exporting “100 thousand” of “endangered” toque macaque monkeys to a Chinese private company for “experimental purposes”.
The mission's statement said the Chinese National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the regulator handling the import and export of wild animals and plants had not received any such requests to allow the monkey imports from Sri Lanka.
Citing China as one of the top countries in the world in terms of wildlife protection legislation and law enforcement, the embassy said that the country has already adopted its Wildlife Protection Law in 1988 with several amendments afterwards and is a contracting party of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
"The Chinese government always attaches great importance to wildlife protection and actively fulfills international obligations," the embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.