Australian quarantine staff are nearly certain a wild monkey spotted on a ship due to arrive in Sydney this afternoon is dead.
The 260-metre vessel CSCL New York left Hong Kong last month and crew members spotted a monkey, believed to have been a wild macaque, some weeks ago but there has been no sign of it over the last six days.
A spokesman for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service said food and water left out for the monkey remained untouched.
"We are not expecting the monkey to still be alive," the spokesman said. "The food and water the crew left out has not been touched; there have been no droppings found. We would be looking for the remains."
Due in Port Botany at 5pm, the ship will be met at a buoy by quarantine staff and a veterinarian. If the animal is not found, the ship will be allowed to dock and then each container will be unloaded under the watchful eye of quarantine officers.
The company that owns the ship is the Canadian-based Seaspan Corporation.
"It would certainly mean a slow discharge [but] the crew on board that ship have been extremely helpful to us," the AQIS spokesman added. "They realise there are more important things at stake than time and money."
About 10 years ago a wild monkey sneaked on board a ship in China and found its way onto Australian shores in the Northern Territory. The animal was eventually captured and put down.
Wild monkeys could carry rabies or simian encephalitis.
"We haven't had rabies in Australia for a while and we plan to keep it that way," the AQIS spokesman said.