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Monkeys on Da Nang streets raise health concerns

Wild monkeys foraging for food in Da Nang streets have sparked safety and disease transmission concerns. A troop of around 100 wild monkeys were spotted 22 Apr, 2020 at the intersection of Le Van Luong & Hoang Sa streets at the foot of Son Tra Peninsula – Da Nang City, looking for food. Over the past several days, the city’s Dong Dinh private museum has also been visited by many monkeys.

A local official, said that these monkeys typically gather in front of Linh Ung Pagoda in the Son Tra Peninsula, waiting for tourists to feed them. While Da Nang closed its tourist destinations to contain the spread of the novel Covid-19, the wild monkeys have hit the streets rather than look for food in the forest.

Researchers say that by feeding the wild animals, tourists have changed their living habits. From searching for food in their natural habitat, some monkeys have switched to food meant for humans, which is not really good for their digestive system.

Ecologist Ha Thang Long, founder of the GreenViet Biodiversity Conservation Center, a Danang-based non-government organization that does biodiversity research, said that in addition to the negative impact on the monkeys, direct contact between humans and wild animals increases the risk of spreading infectious diseases from monkeys to humans.

Many reports said wild animals have been identified as the link allowing the novel coronavirus to jump to humans, similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012.

The wild monkeys that flock to Linh Ung Pagoda and a few other tourist sites in Son Tra Peninsula also visit a nearby landfill in their search for food.

Local conservationists say a belief that it is a merit-gaining gesture to feed the monkeys has also exacerbated the problem. Le Xuan Tung, a nature photographer in Da Nang, said: “I had never thought that our goodwill would affect their natural instinct in such a negative way.”

The Son Tra Peninsula, which covers more than 4,400 hectares, acts as a natural shield for Da Nang. It was originally an island before ocean currents and sediment linked it with the mainland. It is around 10 kilometers to the northeast of downtown Da Nang and bordered by the sea in three directions.