The trade in primates for research is a highly secretive business. Statistics for mortalities and illnesses during or after transportation are not often available. However, over the years, a number of tragedies have been reported which provide a disturbing insight into the suffering and distress experienced by primates in transit. The BUAV believes the global picture is far worse.
Primates are packed into small wooden crates, usually too small to allow them to stand up, and travel as cargo, mainly on passenger flights. The size of the compartment for each monkey is about 30 cm (length), 50 cm (width) and 50 cm (height).The monkeys can endure inadequate ventilation, noise, temperature fluctuations and delays en route as they are shipped on extremely long journeys to research laboratories across the world.
Monkeys may become ill or die in transit. For others, anxiety and stress can lead to infection and the onset of disease which may remain latent until the animals reach their final destination. Documents obtained by the BUAV provide a disturbing insight into just how much these animals suffer. Conditions that resulted in the death or euthanasia of monkeys imported into the USA during 2009 included pneumonia, enteritis, gastroenteritis, dehydration, weight loss, poor body condition and bacterial infection. Other reported incidents graphically illustrate the trauma experienced by these sensitive wild animals during their transportation on airlines:
‘On uncrating, he was found in moribund condition. Part of the wooden crate had been chewed away and no food was present in the crate. Technicians attempted to administer IV fluids, but the monkey died while treatment was being started.’ (The monkey was imported from China)
‘One animal died during transport from Vietnam. This animal was removed in Paris at the airport; the cause of death was reportedly bloat…’ [build up of gas in the gastro-intestinal tract]
‘One animal was dead on arrival.’ (The monkey was imported from Mauritius)
Studies carried out by scientists from within the research industry itself have shown that transportation causes profound negative and lasting effects on the welfare of primates. The long-tailed macaque in particular has been identified as a species unsuited to transport.