The indictment of several members of an alleged international monkey smuggler ring is causing ripples in the U.S. biomedical community. The US Department of Justice charged two Cambodian wildlife officials and several members of a Hong Kong-based primate supply company with illegally exporting hundreds of cynomolgus macaques to the US. According to reports, the animals were captured from the wild in Cambodia and labeled as captive-bred.

The shortage of cynomolgus macaques, used in everything from drug safety testing to vaccine research, is likely to get worse because of the indictment. The main goal should be to stop the illegal trade in animals. The industry is heavily scrutinized by unscrupulous actors.

More is known about the provenance of monkeys, which is why animal advocacy groups want to ban more imports. Some experts are suggesting that the breeding of this species of macaque should be moved to the United States in order to collect more information on the monkeys that come from overseas. labs should find ways to use less of these animals

Science has learned that one of the companies that received the monkeys is the largest private supplier of monkeys in the US. Inotiv strongly condemns any and all unauthorized trading/importation of endangered species.

The cynos are the most popular monkey species imported to the United States. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulates the import of nonhuman primate. Cynos are used by many companies. The majority ofhesus macaques in the U.S. are used by the academic community. The main primate species imported to Europe are Cynos. Large facilities in Asia are where they are usually bred.

China used to be the main supplier of cynos but stopped doing so during the Pandemic due to the trade war with the United States. Several countries came in to fill the gap. The majority of cynos were shipped to the United States.

It is likely that the line isn't sustainable. The number of cynos in the wild is not known, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature has lowered the status of the monkeys from vulnerable to threatened.

During the Pandemic, the need for cynos has increased. The monkeys were used to study Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other diseases. The demand for these animals is very high.

That could be the reason for the illegal trade in Cambodia. Two high-ranking employees of a Hong Kong-based company that breeds monkeys for research paid millions of dollars to black market suppliers and Cambodian wildlife officials to capture thousands of cynos from national parks and other protected areas of Cambodia.

According to the indictment, more than 1500 of these "laundered" cynos arrived in the US over the course of a year. They ended up in Florida and Texas.

The world's largest supplier of nonhuman primates for research was purchased by Inotiv last year. The majority of the monkeys are sold to private and academic laboratories.

quotation mark If monkeys are to be used in research in the U.S., there is a responsibility to ensure they are well cared-for … and sourced responsibly.
  • Eric Kleiman
  • Animal Welfare Institute

There isn't much that companies like Inotiv can do to check the provenance of the animals they receive. She says that the documentation must be taken at face value. Everything else is not our responsibility.

She calls the alleged illegal import of cynos "horrible" for the animals and a violation of the trust both the scientific community and the public place in animal research. She says wild-caught monkeys are capable of carrying diseases that could affect other animals. They are prone to stress just from being around people for the first time.

The CDC was asked by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to stop all primate exports from Cambodia. The U.S. National Institute of Health was asked to determine the precise origin of everycyno imported from Cambodia since the beginning of the year.

Cambodia's ministry of agriculture said it was surprised and sad by the indictment, and that it was committed to uphold all laws governing the international trade of animals. It didn't deny that any of its monkeys had been captured.

The Animal Welfare Institute is an animal advocacy group that has closely followed the issue. If monkeys are to be used in research in the U.S. there is a responsibility to make sure they are well cared for.

The co- founder of Action for Primates agrees. She says the United States should follow the European Union's lead and ban the import of wild-caught animals and their offspring. She says that is the only way to make sure they don't get wild- caught animals. The research community needs to be held responsible for what happens to this species.

Ensuring that all captive-bred animals have extensive pedigree records would be a solution suggested by O'Connor. He suggests genotyping every monkey used in a study to find out their origin.

Science contacted major pharmaceutical and biotech companies, but neither responded nor commented on the issue.

A U.S. consultant on industry and academic monkey research who has worked in the field for decades but asked not to be named because of concerns of damaging relationships with his clients says he thinks the indictment is going to reduce the number of monkey research grants. He wants the U.S. biomedical community to invest in domestic breeding. We have to move away from shipping animals halfway around the world because we can't control where they came from.

Reducing the number of monkeys is one of the things the community needs to focus on. Design studies that require fewer animals and work with regulators to reduce the number of animals in research. It is easier, faster, and less expensive to build up a bigger pipelines.