Monkey compensation sought

MACAQUE MENACE::Conservation measures have seen the primates rebound, and they sometimes cause as much damage to crops as natural disasters like typhoons

By Chang Tsun-wei and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Thu, May 30, 2013 - Page 5

Fed up with Formosan macaques raiding orchards and fields and eating the crops, Taitung County farmers are demanding that the government compensate them for the damage caused by the monkeys.

As the nation’s only native primate species, the Formosan macaque was once endangered, but after being listed as a protected species and through the conservation efforts of the past two decades, their population has rebounded and kept on increasing.

Due to their omnivorous foraging habits and expanding range, from mountain forests to hills and grasslands, the monkeys have become a farm pest, according to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taitung County Councilor Lin Tung-man (林東滿).

Saying that the government has a natural disaster relief fund for farmers when 20 percent or more of their crops are lost due to a typhoon, flooding or drought, Lin said the Formosan macaque has damaged more than 20 percent of crops in some areas, but there is no compensation for these farmers.

“Crop damage by the monkeys should be eligible for compensation under the natural disaster relief fund,” he said.

Taitung Council Deputy Speaker Chen Hung-tsung (陳宏宗) suggested setting up a “crop damage fund” from the county government’s second reserved fund to compensate farmers due to destruction of crops by monkeys.

“Ten or twenty years ago, we did not have any trouble with the Formosan macaque. Now many districts are under threat from them, including the Taitung Longitudial Valley and the Taitung townships of Donghe (東河), Beinan (卑南) and Dawu (大武),” KMT Taitung County Councilor Chiang Chien-shou (江堅壽) said. “Now, farmers can only try to scare them away. There is not much else they can do.”

Taitung County Agriculture Department director Wu Ching-jung (吳慶榮) said that if the monkeys damage crops, poultry or livestock, farmers can apply to the county government for permission to hunt and kill the intruding monkeys in accordance with the Wildlife Protection Act (野生動物保育法).

“However, this must only be done in orchards or cultivated fields. Outside of these boundaries, farmers can not harm the monkeys,” Wu said.

In response to complaints that in the past when someone killed a monkey, local police charged them, Wu said there are humane ways of capturing monkeys, such as netting without sharp spikes, traps that do not injure the animal, low-voltage electrical nets and wire cage traps.

“However, use of leghold traps is forbidden,” Wu said. “We will speak with district police, to allow farmers to trap the monkeys in accordance with the regulations.”