July 7, 2008
Hundreds of endangered monkeys are being taken from the African bush and sent to a “secretive” laboratory in Iran for scientific experiments.
An undercover inquiry by The Sunday Times has revealed that wild monkeys, which are banned from experiments in Britain, are being freely supplied in large numbers to laboratories in other parts of the world. All will undergo invasive and maybe painful experiments leading ultimately to their death.
One Tanzanian dealer, Nazir Manji, who runs African Primates, an animal-supplying company based in Dar es Salaam, said that in recent years he had been selling up to 4,000 vervet monkeys a year to laboratories, charging about £60 each.
Vervets are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Despite this they are being routinely caught and sold to any buyer prepared to pay.
Another Tanzanian dealer, Filbert Rubibira, was asked last year to prepare an order of monkeys to send to the Chinese military for “scientific purposes”. The deal was cancelled at the last minute for reasons that were unclear.
Rubibira told an undercover reporter posing as a buyer that the Cites office in Tanzania would sign permits regardless of what fate awaited the monkeys. “They don’t care about that,” he said. “If it’s for scientific, if it’s for the zoo, if the plane is accepted for transport they don’t care about that . . . The purpose is not a problem.”
Rubibira also indicated that he had no problem if the animals were to be used for cosmetics testing. He said: “We can ask the Cites officer to write [on the certificate] M for medical, scientific purposes, or T for trade purposes. whichever you want.”
Manji said scientists at the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute in Iran had bought 215 vervet monkeys from him this year but he had become suspicious about their true motive, although he was still trading with them. They had “spent a lot of money” on getting the monkeys, even sending over scientists to check on each consignment.
“Iran is very secretive,” said Manji, who has been exporting monkeys for 22 years. “They said it [the monkeys] was for ‘our country’, for vaccine. [They said] ‘We don’t buy vaccine from anywhere; we prepare our own vaccine’.
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