Malaysia’s monkey war: Take action!

March 22, 2013

Nearly 100,000 free-living long-tailed macaque monkeys have been killed per year in Malaysia, during 2011 and 2012. And the extermination is continuing. This massive “culling” has been conducted by Malaysia’s own Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Please protest this horrifying and inhumane assault on Malaysia’s monkeys! (See below.)

A friend of Malaysia’s monkeys confirmed for me that the slaughter is a “direct order from the Ministry of Environment of Malaysia.” A few years ago the ministry had launched “operasi sifar kera” or “Operation Zero Macaques.” Then it turned into “operasi basmi kera,” or “Operation Reducing of Macaques.” My source told me, “They have target numbers of macaques to cull for every state in peninsular Malaysia, resulting in this mass murder.”

Long-tailed macaque

Long-tailed macaques are being targeted for mass murder by the Malaysian government: nearly 200,000 dead so far.

I have also learned that there are so many monkey corpses resulting from the cull that they are being cremated in the fields 

The DWNP responded to some criticisms in the press with the assertion that the decision to kill this vast number of monkeys “was not done in haste,” adding: “The long-tailed macaque is a pest species and can easily adapt to any urban habitat. It is prolific and able to reproduce very fast. There is no question of the species being threatened into extinction with culling….

 Long-tailed macaque and sandwich

These monkeys are resourceful and have learned to co-exist with urban human populations—which makes them a “pest” in the eyes of Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

“We are only culling the problematic population in urban and sub-urban areas and not the macaques’ population that live in protected areas.” This article estimated the number of macaques in peninsular Malaysia at 740,000.

Others, however, disagree with this assessment. Keri Cairns, IPPL’s consulting zoologist, noted that before 1982 about 10,000 monkeys per year were being exported from Malaysia for trade.

Malaysia has not exported monkeys for experimentation since the mid-1980s, when IPPL and “Chief” Mohammed Khan bin Momin Khan (then head of Malaysia’s wildlife department) collaborated to get the practice banned. According to the DWNP’s 1985 annual report, says Keri, concerns about a “serious population decline” contributed to support for the ban.

What about a number ten times that amount? “This is an insane amount of monkeys to cull,” Keri said. He also wondered where that 740,000 population estimate came from, a figure he thought was “impossible.”

As he pointed out, “The long-tailed macaque is described by scientists as an ‘edge’ species.” This means that it is most commonly found along the coast (which accounts for its other name, the crab-eating macaque), by rivers, at forest edges, and in areas disturbed by humans.

As a result, “population surveys are carried out at these places, as they are easily accessible. The population data is then extrapolated to include forested areas, which the macaques are unlikely to inhabit. This can lead to a gross overestimation of the actual population.”

Because of the destruction of forests to make way for oil palm plantations, in addition to the demands of the ever-expanding human population, humans and monkeys have come into increasing conflict in Malaysia. Clearly, the result has been tragic for the monkeys.

But Keri has correctly pointed out that many undesirable monkey behaviors can be resolved in more constructive ways. Aggressive foraging in urban areas can be reduced by educating people not to feed the monkeys. Scavenging from uncovered rubbish bins can be curtailed by monkey-proofing the bins and placing trash for collection outside only at night.

“These measures, along with successful contraception programs, have been working in both Hong Kong and Singapore,” Keri told me.

Long-tailed macaque youngster

Humane ways to control macaque populations have been used with success in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Malaysia’s retired wildlife head, Chief Khan, has always been a great friend to wildlife and to IPPL, and he expressed his shock at the recent killings: “There was a time when killing 10 long-tailed macaques created hell from the public for the Department. Now 150,000 and there is hardly the kind of protest of long ago. What is happening to us? Are we less caring now and why?”

Show you care!
Write to Malaysian officials to protest this monkey war!

Please write in protest to the officials listed below as well as to Malaysian embassies worldwide.

Sample letter:

Dear ____,

I would like to protest the Malaysian government’s decision to kill up to 100,000 long-tailed macaque monkeys per year. Not only is this level of slaughter shockingly inhumane, it is also unsustainable. At this rate, this fascinating and unique species could be extinct in Malaysia within a decade.

There are many more productive ways to reduce human-monkey conflicts in urban areas. These include public education, proper sanitation procedures, and contraceptive campaigns. Such measures have already been used with success in Hong Kong and Singapore.

I urge you to put a halt to this destruction of Malaysia’s wildlife heritage.


[Your Name]

Minister of Natural Resources, Department of Wildlife and National Parks:
Y.B. Dato Sri Douglas Uggah Embas
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment
Level 17, lot 4G3
Precint 4
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62514 Putrajaya

Prime Minister of Malaysia:
The Honourable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Office of the Prime Minister
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya


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6 Responses to Malaysia’s monkey war: Take action!

  1. Heike R on March 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Dear Sir,

    I would like to protest the Malaysian government’s decision to kill up to 100,000 long-tailed macaque monkeys per year. Not only is this level of slaughter shockingly inhumane, it is also unsustainable. At this rate, this fascinating and unique species could be extinct in Malaysia within a decade.

    There are many more productive ways to reduce human-monkey conflicts in urban areas. These include public education, proper sanitation procedures, and contraceptive campaigns. Such measures have already been used with success in Hong Kong and Singapore.

    I urge you to put a halt to this destruction of Malaysia’s wildlife heritage.


  2. Mr. Kelly Tansy on March 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I believe many people in Malaysia respect and appreciate their native nonhuman primates and don’t want them exterminated like what has happened to much of the wildlife in my country.I want these monkeys protected from killing by humans. I also refuse to support the spread of Palm oil plantations that destroy your land! Please stop the monkey killings now!

  3. shelly on March 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    please stop killing the monkeys.

    oh, I never buy anything with palm oil in it.

  4. jan lee on March 30, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Dear Sir,
    We are powerful.
    Our moral responsibility is to help the powerless.
    Please seek humane options.

  5. Param on April 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Thursday April 4, 2013
    Find humane control methods
    The STAR Malaysia

    I WELCOME the recent announcement by the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas that the Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) will initiate an internal investigation into the alleged inhumane killing of the macaques by contractors hired by Perhilitan.

    The timely public assurance by the minister reflects positively on the ministry that its giving due consideration to the views, suggestions and sentiments of the public on the matter.

    Having said that, I wish to highlight to Perhilitan that when a policy is perceived to undermine the social norms or dimensions of the public, it will not be an effective one.

    Merely consulting with a small unknown group of stake holders is not sufficient to implement the cull policy.

    Ideally, a systematic opinion survey should have been carried out to gather enough information about the feelings, perceptions and attitudes of the public towards its proposed controversial macaque cull policy.

    Perhilitan should realise that public opinion plays a vital role in the planning and management of wildlife.

    It cannot be denied that the increased numbers of human-monkey conflicts in the urban and suburban areas are due to the direct result of human activities.

    When the natural habitats of macaques disappears due to human encroachment the animals are forced to acquire new habitats in the urban areas.

    Under these circumstances its our responsibility to handle the situation in an ethical manner.

    In view of the strong public sentiments and protests especially from animal lovers, Perhilitan should seriously look into alternative humane methods (sterilisation and relocation) of controlling the macaque population.

    We need to work on finding an optimal management strategy that does not involve culling of our monkeys/wildlife.

    Conservation of wildlife requires an ethical approach of coexistence.

    Macaques are highly intelligent and emotional creatures, it’s cruel to cull them just to keep their population down.

    We should learn to respect the sanctity of all live forms and work towards policies that are in harmony with nature.

    Be reminded that humans are also part and parcel of nature and when our actions are in direct conflict with nature it will ultimately affect all of us in one way or another.

    Ipoh, Perak.

  6. rotherdermus on April 4, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Perhilitan taking easy way out
    March 26, 2013 FMT LETTER: From Rotherdermus Dermus, via e-mail

    I whole heartedly welcome and support the International Primate Protection League members call for a review of the macaque culling policy by our Wildlife and Natural Parks Department (Perhilitan).

    We cannot go on slaughtering the primates in such large numbers in the name of safeguarding the public and checking their population growth. It is understandable if Perhilitan had to put down macaques that are considered highly dangerous perhaps due to a disease outbreak (such as rabies) in the colony.

    However to cull thousands of macaques to manage the population growth does not reflect well on all those who were responsible in drafting and implementing this cruel and inhumane policy.

    As pointed out by many in the past, humans have been encroaching into the natural habitats of these macaques. As such there is no running away from this human-macaque conflict. We cannot blatantly ignore this fact and go about shooting down these poor creatures just because of public complaints. It appears that Perhilitan is taking an easy way out and they are now branding these macaques as pests and justifying their “barbaric” policy.

    Perhilitan should immediately stop this mindless and evil culling policy. It should instead engage a wildlife (primate) consultant or seek the help of the international wildlife committee on this matter so that we can put in place a more humane policy that respects the sanctity of all lives.

    Perhilitan should also take into consideration the suggestions put forward by our local university researchers who presented their findings on this human-macaque conflict titled, ‘Human-Macaque Conflict and Pest Behaviours of Long-Tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Kuala Selangor Nature Park.’ (Tropical Natural History 12(2): 189_205, October 2012 by Chulalangkorn University).

    Our researchers did not advocate culling as a means of handling these human macaque conflict in their study. I wonder who are the scientists Perhilitan was referring to that have recommended the slaughtering of macaques.

    Perhilitan should immediately revoke the macaque culling policy as it is going against nature and reflects negatively on all nature loving citizens of the world. Please think of alternate methods such as sterilisation and relocation of these macaques. Focus on educating the public.

    There is an urgent need to create awareness in society, especially those who are living closer to these primate habitats to keep their surroundings clean and not to feed these animals. The authorities should not allow housing developers or any other economic activities to encroach too close to wildlife habitats.

    If there is a need for such development the macaques and other wildlife should be relocated first before commencing any development in that area. By the way Perhilitan please for God’s sake, stop referring to our primates as pests.

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