Federal wildlife officials found themselves in a difficult position when they discovered a recent shipment of research monkeys improperly imported into the US
More than 1,000 long-tailed macaques were imported by Charles River Laboratories, a Massachusetts-based research company, A Charles River spokesman said the monkeys have been under company care since being flagged by wildlife officials.
In the past six months, officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have contacted at least two animal sanctuaries to inquire about the cost of housing and feeding the primates for the rest of their lives.
One sanctuary quoted a price tag of $125 million – to cover staff costs, land purchases and infrastructure purchases – before communication with government officials broke down last week.
According to PETA, the federal government then decided to send the monkeys back to Cambodia, but animal rights groups are fighting back.
“We know the monkeys are not going to be safe on the other end,” said Liz Tyson, program director for Born Free USA, which provided the $125 million citation to wildlife officials.
PETA senior vice president Cathy Guillermo said the group is urging Fish and Wildlife to “do the right thing and send these gentle creatures to deserving, willing sanctuaries.”
It’s unclear what prompted Fish and Wildlife to stop using Charles River monkeys. An agency spokeswoman said the consignment of monkeys was denied clearance as a result of an ongoing investigation, but did not provide further details.
The importation of monkeys used in medical research is strictly regulated, requiring paperwork certifying that the primates came from breeding facilities.
The Justice Department has been investigating for years whether American companies, including Charles River, were involved in the smuggling of monkeys hunted from the wild and brought into the US with fake paperwork.
A spokeswoman for Charles River acknowledged that “several shipments” from the company’s Cambodian supplier were recently denied clearance by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We have operated under the belief that all shipments [monkeys] … satisfies the physical requirements, documentation and related processes and procedures of CITES,” a 1975 treaty designed to ensure that the global market for certain plants and animals does not threaten their existence in the wild. does not put
The company said it has voluntarily suspended future shipments of Cambodian monkeys “until we and the US Fish and Wildlife Service can develop and implement new procedures to strengthen the belief that [monkeys] We are purpose-bred to import from Cambodia.
The company said it “continues to care” for the monkeys from Cambodia, but did not specify a location.
Charles Rivers announced in February that he had been subpoenaed in the Justice Department investigation.
“We are cooperating fully with the US government as part of their investigation and believe any concerns raised with regard to the Charles River are unfounded,” the company said in a statement at the time.
Angela Grimes, chief executive officer of Born Free USA, said the organization was first contacted by Fish and Wildlife in September. Agent 360 was looking for homes for the monkeys.
Grimes said Fish and Wildlife officials called back in February and said the number of monkeys had dropped to 1,200.
“There’s not room for 1,200 monkeys,” Grimes said. “The government was grappling with it. We were also struggling with this.
Grimes said she looked forward to working with the federal government on a plan to arrange the necessary funding to set up a habitat for the monkeys. But then she felt the rug was pulled out from under her when PETA announced that it had information suggesting that the government planned to send the monkeys back to Cambodia.
“We weren’t given a full opportunity to engage in serious dialogue to come up with solutions that potentially work,” Grimes said.
Crystal Mathis, executive director of Primarily Primates, a sanctuary outside San Antonio, said she received a call from Fish and Wildlife in February.
“It was as if they [the agents] We were trying to figure out what all their options were,” Mathis said. “We said we could definitely take some women to start with, and maybe more as we learned. “
Both Chiefly Primates and Born Free USA said a new structure to house a dozen rescued monkeys could run more than $100,000. The animals also require daily feeding and constant veterinary care which requires staff and resources.
The group said on Monday PETA supporters flooded the Fish and Wildlife Service with thousands of emails and phone calls urging the agency not to send the monkeys back to Cambodia.
A spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to provide any details about their plans for the monkeys.
“The number of shipments that have been refused clearance vary depending on the circumstances, and we are unable to comment further on these shipments at this time,” the spokesperson said.
In November, two Cambodian wildlife officers were among eight people charged with running an international monkey smuggling ring that allegedly shipped primates to the US that were poached from the wild and sold to breeding facilities. Was falsely labeled as coming from.
The trafficking of wild-caught monkeys is believed to have been ongoing for decades due to the high demand for laboratory monkeys in the US and the limited supply of breeding facilities at home and abroad.
NBC News reported in December that the COVID-19 pandemic and the race to find a vaccine further compressed the market, fueled a craze for the animals, fueled the poaching of monkeys, and led to drug studies more generally. Contributed to the endangerment of the species used. Long-tailed macaque.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” Malen Friis Hansen, director of the Long-Tailed Macaque Project, a Denmark-based nonprofit group focused on conservation of the primates, said at the time.