one green planet
one green planet

Last year, over 1,000 endangered long-tailed macaques found themselves at the center of a US government investigation into wildlife trafficking. These juvenile monkeys are now at risk of being killed or returned to Cambodia, where they may be laundered and re-trafficked. The long-tailed macaque was elevated from “vulnerable” to “endangered” in 2022, partly due to exploitation by research industries.

Source: NBC News/Youtube

These macaques first made headlines when the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) sought help from Animal rights organization PETA to find a sanctuary for 360 monkeys. As discussions progressed with Born Free USA and the US Department of Justice (DoJ), the number of monkeys in question grew to over 1,000. Currently, they are housed at a primate center in Houston, Texas, owned by Charles River Laboratories, a company involved in buying, selling, and testing on animals.

Charles River Laboratories is under investigation for monkey trafficking, with several Cambodian officials charged last November for selling wild macaques falsely labeled as farmed to US research labs. Two unnamed US co-conspirators were also indicted. The fate of these monkeys remains uncertain, as they cannot be legally sold or tested on until their non-wild status is confirmed.

According to Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel of PETA, the US government has three options: “Seize and remove to a sanctuary, kill them, or allow re-export.” Returning the monkeys to Cambodia, however, could mean sending them back to those suspected of illegally exporting them in the first place, putting them at risk of being resold to US labs. Liz Tyson of Born Free emphasized that sanctuary in the US is the only way to guarantee the monkeys’ safety.

The US currently imports around 30,000 primates a year for research and testing, with 60% coming from Cambodia. The long-tailed macaque is the primate species most often used for toxicology testing in chemical and drug development. However, recent studies show that primates are poor predictors of results in humans. In response, Congress passed the FDA Modernization Act, which removes the legal requirement to test on animals before human clinical trials.

As scientists increasingly turn to animal-free methodologies like cell-based and “organ-on-chip” tests, the era of relying on stolen, diseased, and distressed monkeys for curing human diseases is coming to an end. Jones-Engel hopes this change will come in time for these species to recover in their natural habitats.

Although the DoJ declined to comment on the ongoing investigation, and Charles River Laboratories claimed to be “steadfastly opposed to the illegal importation of non-human primates that are not purpose-bred into the United States,” the fate of these monkeys still hangs in the balance.

So, what can you do to help? As an individual concerned about the welfare of these endangered macaques, you can take action by raising awareness about their plight on social media, contacting Charles River Laboratories, and supporting organizations like PETA and Born Free USA that are fighting for the monkeys’ safety.

Together, we can make a difference and work towards a more sustainable and compassionate future for all living creatures. Let’s ensure that the fate of these 1,000 endangered monkeys is one of hope and sanctuary rather than exploitation and suffering.

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