In 1995 the UK Government brought in a policy restriction on the use of wild-caught primates in research, thanks in part to the BUAV’s pioneering Paradise Lost campaign. This was because engaging a wild animal, particularly one as sensitive and sentient as a monkey, causes fear, anxiety and distress, to say nothing of the physical injuries (and even fatalities) that occur in the struggle – or the impact on already-threatened wild populations. Wild-caught primates are now only supposed to be used when there is an “exceptional and specific justification”.
But the ban is only skin-deep. Although it prohibits the use of monkeys that have been directly taken from the wild, it still allows the use of captive-born offspring of wild-caught monkeys. There are no limits at all on the amount of primates that breeding centres can take from the wild to boost ‘stocks’.
Countries such as India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand have completely banned the export of primates because of fears about the impact of continued wild-capture on population levels. But in Vietnam and other countries it still continues.
At Nafovanny’s secret supply farms we saw macaques that displayed clear signs of having been recently taken from the wild. They fled from human contact or, where this wasn’t possible due to the size of their cages, they huddled together in fear - this compared to the much more docile behaviour of their counterparts in the main farm. Even more worrying was that we didn’t see one pregnant female in what is supposed to be a breeding farm.
So how is Nafovanny keeping its stocks up? Nafovanny’s corporate brochure states that “to quench the research demand, there is another breeding farm … where most Macaca Fascicularis [macaques] are found… in Cambodia”. Topping up primate stocks from the wild seems common-practice, and indeed something Nafovanny is happy to allude to in its brochure.
This has to lead to fears that, with indigenous monkeys so close at hand and the remoteness of the breeding centre, there exists a real danger that monkey factories such as Nafovanny will be able to easily pass off wild-caught primates as captive-bred. We have already seen that the UK Government are incapable of ensuring that conditions at Nafovanny meet even the bare minimum.
With demand for monkeys for research threatening to grow out of control, it’s clear that the captive-bred trade cannot meet demand without taking thousands of animals from the wild to maintain stocks – and taking animals from the wild for research is completely unjustifiable.
So much for the Government’s ban on wild-caught monkeys in research.
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