Monday, January 07, 2008

Malaysia's Urban Monkeys Pose Disease Threat

diseased monkeysMalaysia's monkeys are being forced out of their forest habitat into cities, carrying diseases that could infect humans, veterinary experts warned in a report on Monday.

The monkeys, who are making new homes in streets and housing estates as they make way for urban development, are carrying blood parasites and the herpes virus or suffer from simian malaria and dengue, The Star newspaper reported.

"Once these monkeys carry the virus, there is a possibility that those who keep them as pets would contract the disease," said Veterinary Association Malaysia vice president S. Vellayan.

"However the situation also works in reverse, as monkeys easily catch diseases from humans."

Vellayan said the findings were based on post mortems conducted on monkeys killed in road accidents or dead primates brought to the national zoo.

Malaysia's monkey population is estimated at 700,000, out of which some 250,000 are found in towns and cities -- mostly macaques or leaf monkeys, the paper said.

Veterinarian Roy Sirimanne told The Star that the monkeys could also contribute to the spread of air-borne diseases.

"The mosquitoes that usually feed on the monkeys will also tag along, increasing the risk of vector-borne disease transmission," he said.

The environment minister said steps will be taken to combat the monkey menace after a probe is concluded.

Malaysia last year lifted a 23-year ban on the export of long-tailed macaques from the peninsula, saying they had become an urban pest and were attacking people and stealing food.

Story here.

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