Nepal halts monkey exports to labs

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2009:

KATHMANDU–Nepalese animal advocades on August 27, 2009
celebrated success in preventing Nepal from entering the fast-growing
traffic in exporting monkeys from developing nations to research labs.
“Around 300 monkeys who were to be exported to the U.S. will
be able to find their food in freedom, in their own country,”
headlined the Kathmandu Post.
“We have decided not to allow the monkeys to be exported,”
announced Nepal forestry minister Deepak Bohara. “We will ask
Pravesh Man Shrestha,” the prospective monkey exporter, “to release
the monkeys within a week.”

Explained the Kathmandu Post, “After consulting the
department heads of the ministry, Bohara came to the conclusion that
it was illegal to export the monkeys.”
“The law does not permit the export of any wild animals.
Thus giving approval to export the monkeys would contravene the law,”
affirmed an anonymous ministry undersecretary. “The Ministry has
concluded,” the undersecretary told the Kathmandu Post, “that the
monkeys should be released to their natural environment.”
The monkeys who were to have been exported are the offspring
of a wild-caught colony kept at Lele, Nepal. U.S. law forbids the
import of wild-caught monkeys, to inhibit the accidental import of
diseases caught in the wild. Instead, breeding stock are caught
from the wild, and their young are exported. Some sellers have been
caught, however, exporting wild-caught monkeys with the claim that
they were captive-bred.
The Nepal Biodiversity Research Center and National
Biomedical Research Center, both involved in the monkey breeding
scheme behind the scenes, according to Nepalese media, had
reportedly long lobbied for permission to begin the exports.
However, “In February 2009 a parliamentary committee ordered
the ministry to stop the process of exporting rhesus monkeys for
biomedical research. Concerned citizens in January 2009 filed a
public interest case at the Supreme Court,” recalled Dutch freelance
journalist Lucia de Vries, a longtime resident of Nepal. The
Supreme Court filing apparently prompted Bohara’s intradepartmental
Said the Kathmandu Post, “As a first step Shrestha planned
to export 25 of the 300 monkeys to the Southwest Foundation for
Biomedical Research. Shrestha was breeding the monkeys under the
auspices of the Nepal Biomedical Research Center. American citizens
who financially supported this venture have now landed in Kathmandu
looking for compensation.”
Funded by the Nepal Natural History Society and the
Washington Primate Research Center, Shrestha reportedly began
developing his monkey business in 2001. He bought about 200
wild-caught monkeys in 2003.
“People are catching and selling monkeys to middle men for
this purpose at the rate of about $300 U.S. each,” de Vries wrote to
ANIMAL PEOPLE in December 2003.
Since then, recalled International Primate Protection League
founder Shirley McGreal, “Four or five ministers came and went,
high level bureaucrats changed posittions, and the population of
captive monkeys increased significantly.”


The most significant change–for the monkeys as well as
Nepal–was the abolition of the corrupt monarchy that had ruled Nepal
for 240 years. The monkey export scheme was brokered and Shrestha
bought the 200 wild-caught monkeys during the five-year reign of King
Gyanendra, a prominent practitioner of animal sacrifice. Gyandendra
took office after Crown Prince Dipendra, an avid hunter, on June 1,
2001 shot nine members of the royal family, including the previous
king and queen, and then shot himself.
Gyanendra in February 2005 suspended the Nepalese parliament
and introduced martial law, in the name of fighting a long Maoist
insurgency. He was forced by public protest to reinstate the
parliament in April 2006. The Gyanendra regime was formally
stripped of authority in December 2006. In March 2008 an audit
confirmed years of rumors that the Nepalese royal family had
extensively misused their authority over wildlife conservation for
personal benefit.
The most prominent offender was Gyanendra, who had
represented Nepal in dealings with the World Wildlife Fund since
1974, and had headed the King Mahendra National Trust for Nature
Conservation from formation in 1982 until his ascension to the
throne, when he appointed his son Paras to succeed him. The
auditors found that the Mahendra Trust had operated as a mechanism
for converting conservation funding and wildlife assets to the
personal benefit of royal family members.
“Animal Welfare Network Nepal calls for the professional
rehabilitation of the more than 300 monkeys kept at the Lele breeding
center. The government is responsible for taking the monkeys out of
their cages and rehabilitating them in a professional manner,”
Animal Welfare Network Nepal spokesperson Manoj Gautam e-mailed to
ANIMAL PEOPLE and other media. “Those born in the Lele center need
to be taught how to survive in the wild. Those caught from the wild
need to be released gradually, as they have spent many years in
captivity,” Gautam said.
About 60 wild-caught monkeys and offspring have died since
2003, Animal Welfare Network Nepal estimates.
“Animal Welfare Network Nepal also requests the government to
pass an Animal Welfare Act, include a clause on animal welfare in
the new constitution, and halt commercial wildlife breeding,”
Gautam added. “The network is concerned about a possible ‘upgrading’
of the much criticized Wildlife Breeding Act 2003,” produced by the
Gyanendra regime, “which would reintroduce monkey business through a
back door.
“The network reminds the minister that Nepal has no animal
welfare legislation and that there are no legal tools to monitor and
prosecute animal abusers,” Gautam said. “Breeding [monkeys] further
opens the door for biomedical research within Nepal, which is
completely unregulated.”
Formed in 2008, Animal Welfare Network Nepal is a coalition
representing Animal Nepal, the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre,
Kirtipur Rescue, Roots & Shoots Nepal, the SPCA Nepal, and
Streetdogs of Nepal.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.