Monkey Contraception Project with Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong

Unlike most (all?) American cities, Hong Kong doesn’t have suburbs and is instead mostly surrounded by ocean and hilly forests. These forests are filled with way too many monkeys. In 2009, the Hong Kong government launched a 5-year Monkey Contraception Project, a city-wide project to administer contraceptives to wild monkeys. Every few months, volunteers from the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and any Hong Kong residents who are interested in participating spend a day in the forest spaying monkeys. When I was visiting in April, I was given the opportunity to tag along on one of these outings. Monkey1At the start of the project, giant green cages were set up at various sites. They keep the door of the cages open so the monkeys can wander in and out and get used to the cages. Every few days, some volunteers go around putting peanuts on the floor of the cages to attract them inside.Monkey3Then, on a project day, a program leader will visit each green cage and close the ones that have a good number of monkeys in them. Somehow, there are always more monkeys looking in than monkeys trapped inside. “Ha ha, suckers!”Monkey2All the volunteers then head over to the site and start set-up. Generally, 3 stations are needed – one for capture, one for examination, and one for surgery. It was rainy that day, so we had tents.Monkey4To get the monkeys out individually, smaller cages are set-up on one side of the green cage while volunteers push the wall of the other side to make the cage smaller.Monkey5Once a monkey finds its way into a small cage, the walls of the small cage are collapsed until the monkey cannot move. That way, a volunteer can administer a tranquilizer shot easily. Then we simply waited for the monkey to fall asleep before taking it out.Monkey6A volunteer then carries the monkey over to the examination area where they check the gender and take measurements. If the monkey is female, they shave her to check if she’s been spayed. They also take note of and treat any wounds. Apparently these monkeys are vicious and will attack simply if looked at the wrong way. One monkey had a finger that was bitten off…Monkey7The monkeys also like to store peanuts in their cheeks, so a volunteer will often have to massage their faces to get the peanuts out.Monkey8If a female monkey has not been spayed, it’s on to the surgery station. The vet performs the surgery laparoscopically and pokes small holes in the monkeys stomach area – one for the mini camera and 2 for surgical tools. The monkey’s stomach is puffed up using carbon dioxide and then the vet simply lifts the ovaries and makes a small snip to separate it from the uterus. Then the instruments are removed and the holes are treated with “skin glue.”Monkey9Finally, the monkey gets a small tattoo to indicate the she’s already been spayed. The monkeys get a different tattoo depending on when/when she was spayed.Monkey10If a monkey is male or a female who has already been spayed, s/he gets placed inside a temporary holding cage. They are placed like this to help them keep warm.Monkey11Once all the monkeys in a holding cage are sufficiently awake, they get moved back to the green cage. It was chilly that day, so we waited until all the monkeys stopped shivering to move them.Monkey12Once they’re in the green cage, it’s like nothing every happened. This is a monkey eating peanuts again after being abducted by us. Once all the monkeys wake up and are back in the green cage, a volunteer opens the big door and they all run away.Monkey13This next picture is in fact not of a deformed monkey, but a cat who lives at the hiking rest stop where the volunteers all met. It’s tail is naturally curly!Monkey14Usually, there are more monkeys and the volunteers would travel from site to site working all day. But since it was so cloudy and drizzling, not many monkeys were out and about. The sun came out as we were leaving and on the drive down the hill. I saw tens, maybe even hundreds, of monkeys hanging out like they ruled the place. After the 5-year program is over, the government will continue to monitor the monkey population while waiting for all the baby monkeys to grow up.