Ownership of Formosan rock macaques is to be banned from next month, with owners required to forfeit or register such pets by March, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.
The macaque would be added to a list of animals prohibited from ownership, importation or exportation, effective on Sept. 1 at the earliest, the council said.
Those who legitimately obtained such animals prior to the rules going into effect would be allowed to microchip and register them with their local agriculture department before March next year, or face a fine of NT$50,000 to NT$250,000 and confiscation of the animal, Department of Animal Industry Deputy Director Chiang Wen-chuan (江文全) said.
Macaques are not suitable as pets because they are naturally sociable animals and are prone to transmitting dangerous diseases to humans, Chiang said.
Forestry Bureau data show that there were 12 registered macaques in captivity as of Sept. 1, 2020.
When asked to report how many had been registered as of Monday, municipalities listed seven, three of which were in government care, Chiang said.
However, animal rights advocates believe there are far more macaques being raised illegally than the official numbers suggest.
A study by the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan found more than 150 reports of macaques being kept in captivity since they were removed from the protected animal list in January 2019.
They were mostly rescues or captured to protect crops, but some baby macaques are also sold as pets for as much as NT$20,000, Environment and Animal Society deputy director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said.
After they were removed from the list, many people thought they were allowed to keep macaques in captivity, Association for Coexistence with Macaca Cyclopis secretary-general Lin Mei-yin (林美吟) said.
Some have been kept in horrible conditions with small cages or forced to interact with visitors, Lin said, adding that she has even heard reports of owners withholding water so the animals would remain small.
Macaque ownership is finally being outlawed after persistent lobbying by animal rights groups, she said, adding that she hopes the new law would make up for years of inaction.
Additional reporting by Yang Yuan-ting
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