It was mid-May and the member’s vessel was enroute from Port Kelang, Malaysia to Xiamen, China when the crew noticed a monkey scampering on a container stack.
Gard’s member immediately notified us of the sighting. Primates are susceptible to the Corona Virus and the Gard correspondent in Xiamen advised that the monkey must be caught and quarantined for fear of COVID-19 infection. The initial plan was to bring on board personnel from a Xiamen safari park to catch the monkey. The zookeepers reviewed the photos of the monkey and preliminarily identified it as a type of Langur, a protected animal in China.
Customs explained that it was illegal to import mammals into China and efforts to catch the monkey had been unsuccessful so the next plan was to bring on board a cage and try to lure the animal into the cage with apple slices and hope to have the monkey contained by the time the vessel arrived at her next port of call, Qingdao.
Still unsuccessful at catching the agile visitor and after several rounds of discussion with local Custom authorities, the agent managed to persuade the Qingdao authorities to allow the vessel to berth during day time and continue to try to lure the animal into the cage. The agent contacted the Qingdao Zoo who would have liked to assist but were prevented by COVID-19 concerns to come aboard. By this time, the crew had named their visitor “Brian”. The vessel completed operations at Qingdao with the next stop Busan, Korea.
In Busan, the correspondent arranged for the fire station rescue team to assist in the capture and had contacted a veterinarian, but again COVID-19 concerns kept them away. In any event, Korean authorities had already determined that Brian could not be disembarked in Korea, so it was off to the next port of call, Shanghai. Enroute to Shanghai, Brian finally decided to forego the run of the ship for a steady supply of apples and was kept in a cage where he was cared for by the crew.
The Shanghai correspondent liaised with the wild animal zoo and wild animal protection station in Shanghai and all seemed ready to accept Brian to a new home. But Customs denied disembarking him because his embarkation point was considered to be endemic for Dengue fever. Poor Brian had to stay caged on board – next scheduled call Ningbo.
After Ningbo, the Master decided that only thing left to do was to bring Brian home to Port Kelang. The vessel then deviated from a call in Singapore to Port Kelang and Brian was returned to where he had boarded. All told Brian was on board for over a month plying the waters of the South China sea. This was my third case involving monkeys. Dealing with such visitors is always challenging and more so during a pandemic.