Controversy-mired monkey farming put on hold

KATHMANDU: The idea of wild animal farming, breeding and research as enunciated by the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) has aroused considerable controversy.

The controversy arose after more than 200 monkeys that were farmed by Prabesh Man Shrestha were not allowed to be exported to the United States. In contrary to the working policy on Wild Animal Farming, Breeding and Research, formulated by MoFSC in 2003 to give a boost to the economic status of the community through access to wildlife farming, the ministry has decided to return the royalty paid by Shrestha and release all the monkeys to wildlife habitat.

More than 30 monkeys have already been freed to their natural habitat.

"We discovered that there are problems on wild animal farming due to lack of clear and specific laws on how to regulate the genetic resource and the share the benefit if the farmed animals are exported," said Shiva Raj Bhatta, spokesperson, Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).

The monkeys were kept for captive breeding with the permission of DNPWC and Shrestha had bought the seed monkeys for breeding paying Rs 25,000 each from the department.

According to Bhatta, the policy formulated permits the wild animals farming but has not specified on how to use the animal.

"There is a provision which permits interested parties to farm wild animal after paying certain amount of money allocated by the government but due to the lack of law on genetic resource and its use, the trading is checked," added Bhatta.

The move has angered some zoologists who have blamed the government for blocking the income generation of individual and the community and discouraging the scientific community, said Dr Mukesh Chalise, a monkey expert.

He contends that Nepal's diverse flora and fauna are the attraction for the researchers worldwide and are a source of income generation to locals if utilised properly.

But the officials at DNPWC maintained that until the Bill on genetic resources is passed, it was not possible to work on the genetic resources.

"We are not against the research but the Bill on genetic resources should be passed before such research and trading of wild animals to other countries begin," he added.