The price of a wild long-tailed macaque has gone up tenfold over the last few months, reaching nearly $70 at markets in northeastern provinces—leading to massive catches that may soon provoke their extinction, wildlife experts said on Thursday.
Whether the monkeys captured by hoop-net traps are being sold to Cambodia’s macaque breeding farms or smuggled across the country’s porous borders is unknown, said Seng Teak, country director for the World Wide Fund for Nature.
“Whatever the reason, we see the price of macaques increasing everyday,” he said, “It’s a big concern to us…. If it continues, the macaque, which is a common species in Cambodia, will go extinct.”
Trade or sale of the long-tailed macaque—listed as a “globally near-threatened” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—is permitted as long as the trade is “highly regulated.” But in recent months, wildlife traders have paid more and more villagers to catch long-tailed macaques, wildlife experts said.
Four primate breeding farms located in Kandal, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom and Takeo provinces have been licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture and authorized to ship macaques overseas to medical research centers.
Neou Bonher, permanent deputy of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve secretariat for the Ministry of Environment, confirmed that there is poaching in protected areas for the purpose of supplying those farms.
“Villagers say they are not selling directly to the farms but to middlemen,” he said. “I plan to visit two of the macaque farms next week to see where their stock is coming from.”
Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said on Thursday that he has not heard any reports about droves of villagers capturing monkeys. “We just give the license to a few companies for breeding,” he said.
Seng Teak urged the government to establish a “clear process” that would regulate the capture of wild macaques for the farms. “There is a network, obviously, set up to harvest the macaques but we don’t know how it works,” he said.