A controversy has erupted over the disclosure of a massive “culling” of long-trailed macaques being conducted by Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) (NRE).

Long-tailed macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis).

Last year the NRE dispatched nearly 100,000 macaques. A ten percent increase over 2011.

The department explains its actions thusly: “The disturbance caused by the monkeys has undermined the tolerance level of the communities to co-exist with them.”

Reminiscent of a recent post concerning the antagonistic attitudes of villagers towards Red colobus monkeys in Africa, what’s happening to the macaques is yet another example of the earth’s swelling populations of homo sapiens pushing the other species on the planet toward extinction.

The total number culled in 2012 was 97,200, up from 87,900 in 2011.

Defending its actions the NRE released a statement stressing that the decision to cull the macaques in peninsular Malaysia “was not done in haste.” “Just imagine,” an official explained, “with the culling of 87,819 (animals) in 2011, we still had 4,913 complaints. With the culling of 97,119 (animals) last year, the complaints still stood at 3,235 cases.

In response to allegations by animal rights groups that the methods used to kill the monkeys were cruel and inhumane (drowning and shooting), officials explained that the primates were exterminated through “an internationally accepted culling method.”

The department characterized macaques as a “pest species” that is prolific, able to reproduce very fast and can easily adapt to any urban habitat, and that any allegation that the culling will push the monkeys into extinction is nonsense. It added that it is only culling the problematic population in urban and sub-urban areas and not the macaques’ population that live in protected forests.

The estimated population of the long-tailed macaques in peninsular Malaysia is estimated at 740,000 and well distributed in the urban areas.

The department viewed alternatives to culling such as relocation of problem macaques to forested areas in the long term as just a temporary transfer of the problem as new conflicts would be created as the animals are extremely territorial.

It claims that the culling practice was discussed in detail with NGOs, experts and scientists but did not release any more specific details. In response to pubic complaints, the NRE has set up a special committee to look into the culling campaign. An official acknowledged that the long-term solution for the problem is sterilization.

The Malaysian government stopped exporting long-tailed macaques for commercial purpose in 1986.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012 categorized long-tailed macaques as “Least Concern”.

Source: International Primate Protection League