Conservationists give cover for Mauritian monkey sales to labs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
PORT LEWIS, KUALA LUMPUR, HANOI–Nearly 500 years after
Dutch sailors are believed to imported the first macaques to
Mauritius, claims of a need to control them as an alleged invasive
species have become a front line of defense for the booming Mauritian
macaque export industry– which captures some macaques from the wild,
but breeds them in captivity to comply with U.S. and international
laws that prohibit or restrict the use of wild-caught animals in labs.
Six Mauritian companies export macaques. The largest may be
Noveprim, founded in 1980. “Monkeys are not indigenous to
Mauritius,” emphasized Noveprim chief executive Gerald de Senneville
in an October 2007 interview by Nasseem Ackbarally of the Inter Press
Service, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ackbarally found quick agreement from Mauritian Wildlife
Foundation executive director Jacques Julienne and conservation
manager Vikash Tattayah.
“The monkeys are a nuisance from a conservation point of
view,” said Julienne. “They eat birds’ eggs, kill small and adult
birds alike, and attack indigenous plants.”
Added Tattayah, “Endangered species like the pink pigeon,
the echo parakeet and even the Mauritian kestrel are regular monkey
victims. Their impact on our forests is disastrous.”
The Mauritian Nat-ional Parks & Conservation Fund collects an
export tax of $70 per monkey.
The conservation argument, if globally persuasive, could
buy Mauritius and other island nations that export non-native monkeys
a political edge in competition with nations that sell native monkey
species to labs.
The conservation argument joins the older argument for
macaque export as pest control, voiced to Ackbarally by Mauritius
Agricultural Marketing Cooperat-ive Federation chief Tunaz Rampall.
Macaques “eat around 20% of our production, thieves take 10% and 15%
are destroyed by insects and vermin,” Rampall said.
But both the conservation and pest control arguments are
undercut by the modus operandi of the monkey exporters.
“Breeding monkeys are captured between Septem-ber and
December, when food is rare in the wild,” wrote Ackbarally. “The
captured animals are checked for diseases such as tuberculosis. If
found fit for breeding, they are kept in quarantine. Eight to twelve
months later, they give birth. Two years later, the small monkeys
are quarantined, checked for diseases and then exported.”
The captures leave more food for the macaques who escape
capture, who then are able to birth and raise more young the next
year. Rather than lastingly reducing the population, the captures
amount to “sustainable yield” cropping.
Mauritius exports about 10,000 monkeys from the island to the
U.S., Britain, and Japan, generating foreign exchange revenue of
more than $20 million a year, Mauritian agro-industry minister Arvin
Boolell told Ackbarally.
His report came as protest rose in Malaysia over the June
2007 declaration of national resources and environment minister Seri
Azmi Khalid that his office had relaxed a 23-year-old ban on
exporting long-tailed macaques, specifically to supply laboratories
and Chinese live markets. Khalid claimed that the macaques to be
exported would be captured from the urban population of about
258,000, rather than the wild population of about 484,000.
“These poor primates will be destined for the cooking pot and
be subjected to horrendous suffering in laboratories,” objected vice
chair M. Kula Segaran of the opposition Democratic Action Party, in
a statement to Agence France-Presse.
“Segaran said that Azmi should make clear who would profit
financially from the export of macaques, and say whether it had
considered sterilization or humane culling” to reduce the macaque
population, AFP reported.
The Malaysian Animal Rights & Welfare Society on October 19,
2007 asked the national Anti-Corruption Agency to investigate Khalid
and former Department of Wildlife & National Parks director general
“In July, the Animal Rights & Welfare Society submitted a
memorandum to Khalid demanding the reinstatement of the ban and a
halt on all pending macaque shipments,” reported Bede Hong of the
online political news web site Malaysiakini. “They also lodged a
police report against Azmi and ministry officials for [allegedly] violating the 1972 Protection of Wildlife Act. The police forwarded
the case to the ACA last month, saying it has elements of abuse of
Musa Nordin admitted to the Malaysia Star in September 2007
that he is “indirectly involved” in the monkey traffic.
“We have information that the decision to export the monkeys
was made when Musa Nordin was still the director general [of Wildlife
& National Parks],” alleged Animal Rights & Welfare Society chair N.
Surendran. “We have information that there is a connection with the
company. He has close contacts with the Department of Wildlife.
Clearly there was some hanky panky going on there with elements of
corruption,” Surendran told Malaysiakini.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that many of the wild-caught
macaques who are supposedly sold to China to be eaten are instead
becoming breeders or being sold to labs as allegedly captive bred.
Of note are that relatively few monkeys are seen in live
markets, as the Chinese government has moved since the Sudden Acute
Respiratory Syndrome outbreaks of 2002-2003 to suppress commerce in
wild-caught mammals, while some laboratory monkey exporting
companies have grown much more rapidly than the birth rates of their
monkey troupes appear to account for.
An instance of suspect trafficking was intercepted in
northern Vietnam on September 17, 2007. Police in Quang Ninh
province confiscated 91 longtailed macaques from a truck heading
toward the Chinese border, police spokesperson Cao Manh Hai told
“Sixteen of the animals were dead and the rest were very weak
when the police found them,” Associated Press reported.
Cao Manh Hai said the surviving macaques were being looked
after at a local conservation center.