The trade in long-tailed macaques, a primate species indigenous to Southeast Asia, has surged in the region since 2004, with Cambodia alone having exported more than 32,000 of the animals over a four-year period, according to data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
At a meeting in Geneva last week, the Species Survival Network urged Cites to carry out an urgent review and impact analysis of the “significant trade” in the primate in the region.
According to Cites, the long-tailed macaque is the mammal “most traded in live form,” and is used mainly in biomedical research.
In Cambodia between 1999 and 2003, just 200 long-tailed macaques were exported. That figure rose to 32,392 between 2004 and 2008, according to the Species Survival Network. SSN added that “around the Tonle Sap lake, [macaques] are being trapped and traded in large numbers in response to demand from farms in both Cambodia and Vietnam.”
In addition, the organization expressed concern over the “extremely destructive” methods used to trap wild macaques in Cambodia.
“Hunters isolate a macaque troop in a large tree by cutting down all the surrounding forest in a 25 meter – 30 meter radius,” SSN said, adding that the macaques were then forced to drop to the ground and captured in nets.
Nick Marx, wildlife rescue and care manager at Wildlife Alliance, said both the legal and illegal trade in wild long-tailed macaques had grown “hugely” in recent years.
“Macaques are becoming much more scarce throughout the country,” said Mr Marx, adding that there was a large market for the primate in China.
However, Men Soriyun, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Wildlife Protection Office, denied there was an illegal trade in the animal.
“We don’t have any illegal trade,” he said. “We have legal farms.”
There are about five macaque farms in Cambodia, some of which accommodate up to 10,000 of the animals, Mr Soriyun said.