Villagers have captured thousands of wild monkeys from Cambodia’s northeastern forests this year, potentially threatening both the monkey population and the forests they live in, officials and wildlife experts said Wednesday.
Some were captured and sold to monkey breeding companies, and others were illegally smuggled across the border into Vietnam, officials said.
Kratie provincial Governor Kham Phoeun said the Ministry of Agriculture issued a license for the Golden China company to catch 3,000 long-tailed macaques in his province.
“They cooperated with villagers to catch them,” he said.
Tong Hul, the governor of Kratie’s Sambor district, said the company showed him a government license allowing the capture of monkeys in the province and in neighboring Stung Treng province. Local villagers trapped hundreds of monkeys for the company in January and February, but the numbers have slimmed since officials intervened in March, he said.
Tong Hul said the captured monkeys were being stocked at a facility in his district and then sent to Kompong Thom province for breeding.
Golden China, which is located in Kompong Thom’s Kompong Svay district, houses thousands of monkeys on a three-hectare complex where they are bred for medical research under supervision of the Agriculture Ministry. It is illegal to export wild macaques, but monkeys bred in captivity can be legally sold abroad.
“There are still some people catching [monkeys] in the forest,” Tong Hul said, adding that a single animal weighing between 1 to 2 kg is fetching around $50.
The crude techniques used to capture the monkeys are destroying forest and killing monkeys, said WildAid animal husbandry specialist Nick Marx.
One of the methods is to isolate macaques in a tree or small group of trees, then cut down the forest around it and surround the trees with nets, Marx said.
The tree in which the monkeys hide is then chopped down and the monkeys caught in the nets, he said. “Depending on the size of the tree, it’s fairly obvious that you’re going to have casualties.”
Suon Phalla, enforcement expert for the Cambodian secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, said that hiring untrained villagers to scour the forest for monkeys is illegal.
“The company has to collect the monkeys with forestry officials,” he said.
Neither Golden China nor Agriculture Ministry officials could be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Snuol district deputy police chief Koan Lav said that there were few monkeys living in his area, though he said it was still a major transit point for smuggling into Vietnam.