(March 31 2014 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK), today announced that it had been re-appointed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to lead the Contraceptive Programme of Wild Macaques in Country Parks, starting February 2014. Since 2009, OPCFHK and the AFCD have collaborated to help manage the local population of wild macaques by performing a tubectomy on over 900 female sub-adult and adult macaques. The efforts successfully cut the birth rate of the local population by more than half, from about 60% in 2009 to about 30% in 2013. Ongoing survey efforts have identified 22 macaque troops with an estimated population of 1,576 individuals within Kam Shan, Lion Rock and Shing Mun Country Parks; and the largest troop has more than 250 individual macaques. The programme is designed to perform tubectomy on over 80% of the female macaque population in the future.
As a result of overfeeding by humans, which has since been prohibited, local macaque populations in the Kam Shan, Lion Rock and Shing Mun Country Parks increased rapidly as they have habituated to both people and human food. This has led to occasionally aggressive foraging behaviour both inside country parks and in suburban areas, causing a nuisance to residents. The contraceptive programme aims to reduce the birth rate and control the wild macaque population in Hong Kong as part of a management plan for handling macaque and human conflicts.
Ms Suzanne Gendron, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, said, “We are delighted by the results achieved through the contraceptive programme and welcome the opportunity to continue supporting the AFCD in such an enlightened approach to managing wildlife living near humans. Since our involvement in 2009, the reproductively immature macaques as a percentage of the overall population have fallen from 50% in 2010 to the current level of 31%, a clear sign that the fall in population was due to a reduction in new births. Over the past four years, our team has continued to perfect both the contraceptive procedure and the survey methodology we have adopted. Our experience has made it clear that for a programme of this nature to be successful, it has to be fully endorsed by the government and implemented as an ongoing effort towards long-term sustainability, rather than a once off intervention to correct numbers.”
Ms Gendron added, “Hong Kong is blessed with having many urban areas in close proximity to beautiful natural environments that are home to different wild animals. However, excessive human feeding has driven the birth rate of macaque populations to increase dramatically. This has resulted in human-animal confrontations as macaques approach humans for food and range beyond their habitat to forage. It is therefore critical to manage these wild populations so that they can thrive whilst co-existing in harmony with the human community.”
The contraceptive programme involves trapping troops of macaques once every two weeks, with a lower frequency during the hot summer months. The macaques are first habituated to enter a cage by the programme’s survey officers. Once a troop is trapped, the macaques are anesthetized and given a thorough physical examination. They are also dewormed and vaccinated against rabies. Only adult and sub-adult female macaques are selected for endoscopic tubectomy. This procedure maintains the ovaries and sexual behaviour while rendering the animals infertile. With experience and practice gained over the past four years, the surgical procedure now only takes four to ten minutes to complete. After the procedure, the macaques are given a tattoo on their chests to indicate they have undergone the procedure. Each macaque group has its own tattoo pattern. When all the macaques have recovered from the anaesthesia, they are released on site the same day.
Also essential to the success of the programme are the daily surveys by two OPCFHK Survey Officers, which provide much needed information on the present status of the wild macaques, including their habitat use and range, demography and birth rate of individual troops. The data collected are vital for assessing the success of the contraceptive programme as well as for future planning.
Mr. Shek Chung Tong, Wetland & Fauna Conservation Officer of the AFCD, said, “AFCD has implemented the feeding ban and the contraceptive programme to control the macaque population to keep them healthy in the long run. The decreasing trend in both the total population and the birth rate proves these measures have achieved initial success. Members of the public visiting the country parks concerned can take precautions to avoid monkey nuisance, such as refraining from eating or carrying plastic bags in front of them. Anyone who is disturbed by wild monkeys can call 1823 to notify the AFCD for follow-up actions.”
Ms Gendron concluded, “The public has an important role to play in helping manage the local macaque populations by refraining from feeding them. Once they rely solely on their natural habitat for food, the birth rate will revert to natural rate and incidents of nuisance will drop.”