On 25th August 2022, officials of Oita City in Japan announced that they will not give 15 wild Japanese macaques from Mt. Takasaki to an Uruguayan zoo as a diplomatic present to the country. It appears that the Uruguayan government has declined the controversial offer. Although they did not specify the reason, the city government concluded that “the Uruguayan side declined the donation for technical and financial reasons.”
The plan to send the monkeys to a zoo in Durazno province was announced by Oita City in February 2022. This led to many people and organisations petitioning the government not to do it, including Asia for Animals Coalition and the Macaque Coalition. A representative of the city’s tourism division said, “we are aware that the signature campaign is being conducted, so we wanted to proceed with caution under the Birds and Wildlife Protection Law while paying close attention to the maintenance of the habitat environment in Uruguay. We cancelled the plan as Uruguay declined to accept it.” Japanese macaques naturally live in close family groups that span generations, so to separate any from their friends and families, and remove them from their natural habitat, sending them instead to live the remainder of their lives in captivity in a zoo, would be very cruel.
This is not the first time that the Japanese government has used its native wildlife as gifts to other countries. In 1977, the city donated 30 monkeys from Mt. Takasaki to a zoo in Rome, Italy. It is sad to see wild animals considered as commodities a country may just take from the wild and give to another country as a gift, like giving a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. Even more, if the animals will end up confined their entire life in the enclosure of a zoo. Fortunately, in this case, it did not happen. Perhaps somebody in the government of Uruguay realised how wrong was this “gift”, and how much accepting it would go against the country’s nature conservation and ethics.