Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nepali simians ‘soft target’ for export to US

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 21[2006]:
With slack legal provisions and loopholes, Nepal can become the next target for those willing to import monkeys of different types to the US for conducting biomedical researches, fears a conservationist.
The United States, the home to proponents of animal rights, alone imports over 26,000 monkeys of different types from all over the world for conducting biomedical researches, the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), a US-based primate conservation body states in a report.
“Nepal has not figured in the list, but we cannot rule out the possibility of illegal export of Nepal’s wild life for similar purposes, thanks to loopholes and slack legal provisions,” Mangal Man Shakya, chairman of the Wildlife Watch Group, says.
“The trend of importing monkeys is dangerous for countries like Nepal. Monkeys can easily be exported illegally as Nepal has been infamous in the world for illegal wildlife trade. Noting that India had banned such exports, Shakya fears Nepal could be a new target for US researchers.
“A strong lobbying is necessary to prevent Nepal from becoming the target of US researchers”.
According to the report, 33 research centres and zoos imported 26,319 monkeys from 18 countries last year. The number is growing by 7,000 per year.
“The IPPL may also put our country in its list because a channel is being developed to export Nepali red monkeys to conduct experiments on them in US laboratories,” says Shakya.
It was recently revealed that a controversial testing of monkeys three years ago in the capital was done with the objective of helping US primatologists develop HIV vaccines.
Out of 14,319 monkeys imported for commercial purposes last year, 10,608 were imported for biomedical researches and 1,359 for scientific purposes. Eighteen monkeys were subjected to experiments for breeding in captivity or artificial propagation. Only 12 out of the total monkeys landed in zoos, while three were used for circuses and travelling exhibitions.
Covance Research, the largest importer of monkeys, brought in 12,549 in the US in 2005. Charles River imported 3,818 monkeys, Primate Products imported 2,340, Rhenos LLC imported 2,760 and SNBL USA imported 1,672 monkeys the same year. Zoos turned to be nominal importers – Cincinati Zoo imported one, Houston Zoo imported four and Philadelphia Zoo imported two monkeys that year. A San Diego Zoo imported 33 monkeys from South Africa recently, which had imported them from the Democratic Republic of Congo at a cost of over $12,000 per monkey, the IPPL states in another report. The largest exporter of monkeys to the US is China, from where 13,106 simians were sent in 2005 alone. Other major exporters are Mauritius, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where 4,606, 4,360 and 2,677 monkeys were exported. Cambodia, the Philippines, Guyana, Nevis and Brazil are among exporters.