Warning over meat

More monkeys were being found dead in forests across the country, according to Hunters Association president Mohan Bholasingh.

He said it was not known what was killing them and that the association as a precautionary measure had sent out advisories through members calling on hunters and other people entering forests to be immunised with the yellow fever vaccine.

Red Howler monkeys are the hosts of the virus that carries the disease.

And Honorary Game Warden Steve Mohammed told of another threat.

He said in recent weeks, especially during the Yuletide season, monkeys, especially Red Howlers, were being killed for their meat. He said the meat, which some regarded as exotic, was being sold at $100- $150 a pound.

He said a number of the animals were found with their heads and legs chopped off, an indication that they were killed for their meat.

Agriculture Minister Arnold Piggott, who last week said the ministry was investigating the mysterious deaths, told the Express last Thursday that he had no further information on the matter.

He recently told the Express the ministry was investigating the discovery. He said: "I am hearing that our people found five skeletal remains of what appears to be monkeys. They (remains) were taken for an autopsy to be done."

He had said an autopsy by the Veterinary School at The Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope was inconclusive because there were not enough soft tissues on the remains of the animals found to determine whether they were monkeys or another animal.

Bholasingh said last Thursday: "I cannot say what is killing these monkeys, however, I am concerned with the number of them dying, but all I can say there is something definitely wrong with the monkey population."

He said they could be dying due to a lack of food, contaminated water or other pollutants. Until tests were carried out there was no way to determine whether they had yellow fever, Bholasingh said.

He said, hunters found the skeletal remains of a monkey near the Charuma River, near the Nariva Swamp on Thursday morning. "Hunters are the eyes of the forest and they are the ones who bring in any information to us about the monkeys," Bholasingh said.

During the past five weeks Bholasingh said dead monkeys were being discovered near the Charuma River, Ecclesville Forest, Black Soil, Poole Valley in Rio Claro and many other areas. "They are dispersed all over which makes it difficult to say the cause of death. If they were dying in one area maybe we would have been able to determine the cause of death," Bholasingh said.

Mohammed said: "According to my observation before the Christmas season in the Ecclesville Forest, hunters were killing the monkeys for their meat which they sold. When I visited the forest recently I saw a couple of them with their heads and legs cut off lying on the forest trails."

Mohammed said there was a ready market for monkey meat and that he had never seen a sick monkey in the forest. But he said if they became sick it could be because of the chemicals used by farmers to spray their crops.

Bholasingh said: "If those monkeys are being hunted and are sold for their meat by hunters they could be charged because the Red Howler monkey is a protected animal and if hunters are hunting them they are no longer called hunters but poachers."