Chiba Zoo in Japan announced on February 20 that it had put to death 57 snow monkey hybrids
Over the span of a month, they administered lethal injections to these beautiful creatures. Despite other viable options that could have kept the monkeys alive, they went ahead with the kill.
In 2004 the Japanese government introduced the Invasive Alien Species Act. Put into force in 2005, it included a policy to exterminate the non-indigenous Rhesus macaque. The act also forbade the importation, ownership or transportation of any alien species.
The Rhesus macaque species of monkey is originally from mainland Asia. The Japanese feel concerned that their presence will have a catastrophic impact on the natural ecosystem.
While their environmental concerns are understandable, culling should be a last resort. Other options such as sterilization, or transporting the alien species out of the country, could have taken place.
The Japanese snow monkey is also known as the Japanese Macaque, or “Macaca Fuscata“. In Japanese, they are “Nihonzaru“. These monkeys are endemic to Boso peninsula mountain region, south of Tokyo.
These beautiful creatures are the only indigenous primate in Japan
They also hold the record of being the most northern living non-human primate on earth. Snow monkeys are also famous for their adaptation to the cold climate. They partake in a “hot tub culture” where they warm themselves in hot springs.
In 1957 the Chiba Zoo began luring wild snow monkeys into captivity by offering them food. Later, the zoo eventually kept the alien Rhesus macaque captive on their premises too. These foreign monkeys were first noted to be inhabiting the Boso peninsula in 1995.
After the Invasive Species Act came into force, the prefectural government ordered the culling of all Rhesus macaque. However, much crossbreeding had already taken place.
Chiba Zoo admits neglecting the security of monkey enclosures. They raised their concerns to the City Government that many had broken loose and interbred.
The Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University then received commissioning to undertake DNA testing of the indigenous monkey population in the zoo.
Of the 160 snow monkeys, a third showed hybrid DNA. Culling began in Autumn of 2016. The zoo claimed to have held a memorial service for the monkeys in a Buddhist Temple. Their intention, they say, was to appease the souls of the monkeys.
Japanese government is cold-hearted to the other options
What is sad, is that there was no reason to take their lives. Sorrowfully, it seems like the This is even despite them harboring suspicious fears that the souls of the monkeys would avenge their murders.
Even organizations that you would think would protest the deaths of these animals, dared not question the decision. When Junkichi Mima, spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund in Japan commented, he defended the decision to kill.
Mima instead pointed out his concerns for the ecosystem and natural environment. However, the cull took place within a controlled zoo environment. Sterilization of these animals would have been considerably more compassionate.
If there is a threat to the indigenous monkey populations in Japan, and its ecosystems, it is a problem beyond Chiba Zoo. Since 1995, on the Boso Peninsula, the Rhesus macaque has long been interacting with the local environment. This calculates to over 20 years of interbreeding with the indigenous snow monkey species.
Punishing the 57 snow monkey hybrids, by sending them to their deaths, seems like a drop in the ocean of these supposed conservation efforts. Sadly, Japan has a very bad record of treating animals cruelly. They still persist in hunting whales for their own selfish benefits. What hope, therefore, did these monkeys ever have?