Philippines joins Indonesia in banning monkey business

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:

MANILA, The Philippines– A
high-ranking Philippine official confirmed
May 9 that a long-awaited Philippine ban on
wild-caught monkey exports will take effect
this year, fulfilling a promise made in 1986
and completing a phase-out begun in 1989.
Quoting a radio broadcast by
Philippine Protected Areas and Wildlife
Bureau director Corazon Sinha, the Xinhua
news service reported that the export ban will
cover both wild-caught and captive-bred mon-
keys––a significant extension of the 1989
plan, reiterated in early 1993 by Sinha’s pre-
decessor, Samuel Penafield. Ending all mon-
key exports would ease the burden of enforce-
ment, since officials would not be obliged to
determine where each monkey was born.

However, it might also renew the adverse
response of the U.S. biomedical research
establishment, whose pressure via the State
Department delayed the proposed ban from
April 1986, when former minister of natural
resources Ernest Maceda announced his inten-
tion of barring all exports of Philippine
wildlife, until April 1989, when the phase-
out plans for birds, reptiles, mammals, and
invertebrates were published.
The 1990 wild-caught primate
export quota, Penafield told The Philippine
Star, was 10,000, well below the 1987 export
quota of 15,200, which was then reduced by
another 2,000 each year. Penafield estimated
that about 80% of all monkeys exported by
The Philippines were wild-caught.
The Philippine cessation of exports
would follow a ban on rhesus monkey exports
imposed by India in 1977; a ban on all mon-
key exports enforced by Bangladesh since
1979; a similar ban maintained by Malaysia
since 1984; and a ban on the export of wild-
caught monkeys signed by Indonesian minis-
ter of forestry Djamaludin Suryohadikusumo
on January 20 of this year.
The Indonesian action came nearly two
years after 110 monkeys died en route from Inquatex,
a Jakarta supplier, to Worldwide Primates, the labo-
ratory animal supply firm owned by convicted pri-
mate smuggler Matthew Block (see “Gorilla case was
frame-up,” page 18). The deaths became known just
as the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
announced that a year-long probe had discovered a
22% mortality rate among 260 monkeys imported to
Britain from Inquatex; and 18% and 21% mortality,
respectively, among 2,150 and 810 monkeys import-
ed from two other Indonesian firms, C.V. Primates
and Primaco.
The Philippines and Indonesia were the two
biggest exporters to the United States––but only five
Philippine dealers were still active in 1993, Penafield
said, down from seven in 1992, and nine as of 1987.
Explained California dealer Paul Houghton
in a 1992 letter to customers for monkeys he imported
from Indonesia, “We are in the wind-down phase of
the worldwide feral monkey business. Enough are
being bred these days to more than supply the world
demand. Further removal from the remaining wild
resource is a matter of conscience, not necessity.”
Primate imports from most supplying
nations have declined in recent years:
Nation 1991 1993
Philippines 4,522 3,291
Indonesia 2,935 1,428
Mauritius 2,051 1,202
China 545
Kenya 545
Because of the risk of importing diseases
transmissible to humans along with monkeys brought
from the tropics (such as the often fatal ebola virus),
the U.S. suppliers now emphasize domestic breeding.
The export bans have come largely through
the work of the International Primate Protection
League, begun by Shirley McGreal in 1973.
McGreal won the
Indian ban by publi-
cizing gruesome radia-
tion experiments on
monkeys, who are
sacred to many
Indians. Exporting
more than 100,000
monkeys a year during
the 1950s, India had
cut exports to circa
20,000 a year due to depletion of the most coveted
species, but still led the world in monkey sales.
“The U.S. government and even the World
Health Organization exerted pressure on India to
reopen exports,” McGreal remembered recently,
“but to no avail. The ban is still in place. After India
cancelled monkey exports,” she continued, “a U.S.
company announced plans to export 71,500 monkeys
from Bangladesh over a 10-year period.” IPPL repre-
sentative Dr. Zakir Husain obtained and hand-copied
the sales agreement. McGreal responded with anoth-
er publicity barrage––and got her second export ban.
“U.S. government primate procurement
officials howled,” McGreal said. “The State
Department made a cruel threat to cut off foreign aid
unless Bangladesh renewed monkey exports immedi-
ately.” The Bangladesh ambassador was summoned
to the White House––but that ban too held up.
McGreal turned next to the Philippines, but
was thwarted for years by the apparent involvement
in the traffic of Imelda Marcos, wife of the late dicta-
tor Ferdinand Marcos. Leaked documents show she
obtained U.S. embassy involvement in trying to pre-
vent an export ban. McGreal’s campaign suffered a
further setback in March 1982 when Philippine
teacher and activist Lusito Cuy, 25, drowned in a
boating accident with six of his pupils. As the
Philippine export ban neared actuality, McGreal
asked that Cuy be remembered.
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