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BUAV investigation in Cambodia uncovers disturbing evidence of cruel primate trade

15/05/2012

BUAV field investigators recently travelled to Cambodia following a tip off regarding the treatment of monkeys destined for the international research industry. There has been a rapid and alarming increase in the total number of monkeys exported for research purposes from Cambodia in recent years - from an increase of 200 long-tailed macaques between 1999 and 2003 to 32,392 between 2004 and 2008.

The BUAV believes that Cambodia is breaching CITES regulations by allowing a largely unregulated trade in long-tailed macaques that has resulted in the apparent indiscriminate and intensive trapping of wild monkeys to establish the numerous breeding and supply farms that have been set up. 

During our most recent investigation, BUAV investigators uncovered further evidence of an illegal trade in wild caught macaques. They were informed that wild long-tailed macaques are trapped in the Kampong Province and Siem Reab Province. Without permits and to avoid detection by the authorities, the animals are reportedly brought into the farms during the night hidden under packs of ice in vehicles which have been adapted to hold cages. Our investigators were told that some of these monkeys are exported directly to laboratories overseas while others are imprisoned to produce babies for the international research industry. 

We were especially concerned about the conditions in which monkeys were kept on one farm in Kampong Chhnang Province. The farm, recently taken over by a Korean company, was surrounded by a high concrete perimeter wall topped with razor wire. Many monkeys were singly housed in small barren cages, often in a dilapidated state. Others were kept in overcrowded barren concrete pens. We were also shocked to find infants, clearly too young to be separated from their mothers, housed together in small barren cages.  

Such conditions and treatment of these highly intelligent and social animals breache international guidelines on the care and housing of primates. 

We shall be raising our concerns with the Cambodian authorities and international bodies.

The BUAV has been investigating the trade in primates for research in SE Asia for a number of years. Only this year, we have uncovered the shocking capture of wild macaques in Indonesia and the sickening conditions inside the Laos monkey farms. In Laos we discovered that many of the macaques used to establish the breeding farms had come from Cambodia. We also obtained a copy of a CITES export permit issued by the Cambodia Management Authority in January 2010 which permitted a shocking 4,000 long-tailed macaques and 1,000 pig-tailed macaques to be exported from Cambodia to a monkey farm in Laos.

At the recent 26th meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2012, it was agreed to call upon countries trading in the long-tailed macaque to look at the impact the international trade is having on wild populations. This decision follows the submission of a request for a Review of Significant Trade and a dossier (using evidence obtained from the many investigations carried out by the BUAV) by the Species Survival Network (of which the BUAV is a member). Countries included in the Review are Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Macaques from SE Asia are exported to laboratories in the USA, Japan and countries across Europe, including the UK. Primates (macaques) are primarily used in toxicity testing in which they are forced to consume, inhale or be injected with drugs or chemicals to look for the adverse effects. They may suffer nausea, vomiting, pain, acute suffering and even death. 

Primates are also regularly used in fundamental research that may include studies in neurological research and human diseases. Many of these experiments involve the deliberate infliction of brain damage and implantation of electrodes, which result in substantial pain and suffering.

BUAV investigation in Cambodia uncovers disturbing evidence of cruel primate trade reported in The Phnom Penh Post.