Malaysia has abandoned a controversial plan to round up nuisance monkeys from its cities and sell them abroad as exotic meat or for medical research, after discovering that most of the animals are too ill to be exported.
"After a study was conducted recently, it was found the macaques were not suitable for export because they were infected," Azmi Khalid, natural resources and environment minister, said, according to the New Straits Times newspaper Saturday.
"They were supposed to fulfill the demand for exotic meat in a few countries in Asia and in the West."
Khalid added that the government decided to drop the plan after at least 80 percent of the 250,000 urban monkeys were deemed unfit for export. "Only 20 percent were healthy and, of this, only half the number were suitable for export," he added.
The long-tailed macaques were sick with diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and AIDS, he told the daily.
The report also quoted Azmi as saying the diseases could pose a threat to human health, but it gave no idea as to how the government now planned to tackle the problem.
In August, the Malaysian government said it would end a ban on the export of long-tailed macaques after complaints that they were too aggressive and had attacked residents. Animal-rights groups objected, saying the monkeys would be sold to laboratories.
No permits had been issued for the export of the monkeys, the report said.
Malaysia's monkey population is estimated at 700,000. They are mostly macaques or leaf monkeys.