Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

To Russia, With Relief

April 19th, 2010 · 2 Comments

We’re never able to resist a story that involves marauding monkeys, and so the latest news out of Bugala Island couldn’t help but catch our eyes. As palm-oil production has expanded on Bugala, red-tailed monkeys have steadily lost habitat. The crafty primates, in return, have taken to ravaging the palms, seeing as how their older food sources have been destroyed. Rather than have farmers hunt and kill the monkeys, which is against the law, Ugandan authorities have come up with a novel solution to the crisis:

“We have plans to start giving out licenses to some people to export them (monkeys) to Russia and in return the country will be getting foreign exchange the same way we reap from local tourism,” tourism minister Sarapio Rukundo said, adding, “We are going to send our team on the ground to investigate those reports (of killing monkeys) and if we find out that it is true, the perpetrators will be jailed.”

This announcement actually raises more questions than it answers. What, for starters, does Russia want with hundreds (if not thousands) of red-tailed monkeys? More importantly, is this deal a long-term loser for Uganda? Given the bulk nature of the deal, we imagine that Uganda is fetching just a fraction of the standard price for small primates. At the same time, Bugala is part of a fairly robust eco-tourism industry, one that depends on an abundance of wildlife to attract paying customers. Assuming that Ugandan authorities will have to go to the trouble of rounding up the monkeys for export, why not relocate the animals to a preserve? Or is that not feasible because monkeys are simply to cunning for loose confinement? Having once nearly lost an eye to a Brazilian monkey who coveted our sweet roll, we know that our primate relatives aren’t all sweetness and light.

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