A zoo in Japan is facing massive online backlash for killing its 57 snow monkeys which were found to have crossbred with wild monkeys outside the facility.
Takagoyama Nature Zoo reportedly decided to put down the animals after it found that they were carrying the genes of an “invasive alien species” through DNA testing. The snow monkeys were reportedly killed via lethal injection over a one-month period which ended in early February.
According to Japan Times, about a third of the snow monkey population escaped from the zoo’s enclosure and bred with the rhesus macaque. Since the species is native to parts of India and China and banned in Japan, the zoo has determined them to be “invasive alien species.”
An official would later claim that the monkeys had “to be killed to protect the indigenous environment.” A memorial service was later held for the monkeys at a Buddhist temple near the zoo to “appease their souls.”
Before the culling, the zoo had 164 snow monkeys (also called the Japanese macaques) which were all believed to be pure bred.
According to Mashable, netizens have since posted their criticisms online, calling the action a “harsh response.” One asked why there was a need to kill them when they can be separated instead. “Why? Send them out of Japan if need be, but killing them?” a commenter said.
Following the negative reaction, a representative from Japan’s Office for Alien Species Management has defended the killing, calling the action “unavoidable.”
“Keeping a government-designated invasive alien species is unlawful, if one cannot look after them in an absolutely secure facility in which an animal can never escape from,” the official was quoted as saying.
Conservation group WWF Japan maintains that invasive species cause problems “because they get mixed in with indigenous animals and threaten the natural environment and ecosystem.”