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Stop Nepal Sending Monkeys To Labs!

Nepal is the latest country to be exploited by American research institutes desperate to get their hands on primates for vivisection. Whilst other species of macaque monkeys are in relatively plentiful supply, the genetically desirable rhesus monkeys, (which according to scientists are the most closely related "lesser ape" to us physiologically), are currently in very short supply.

Rhesus monkeys are seen as a replacement for "great apes", such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, and like great apes they are most often used in research for vaccines, hepatitis and AIDS. The research institutes currently involved in the exploitation of Nepal are all American and, unsurprisingly, they also house substantial numbers of great apes which they are also using in research projects.

The use of rhesus macaques for research has become much more important over the last 20 years because great apes are becoming more and more difficult to import, (generally due to the fact that most are now endangered species), and because the use of great apes in experiments is banned in many countries.

The current worldwide supply shortage of rhesus monkeys is due to an export ban implemented in India in 1978, although scientists have now decided that Nepalese rhesus monkeys are significantly similar genetically to their Indian counterparts to warrant the use of experimentation...hence the current attempts to exploit Nepal.

"Scientists investigating the genetic makeup of rhesus macaques monkeys, a key species used in biomedical research, have found the rhesus in Nepal may provide a suitable alternative to alleviate a critical shortage of laboratory animals used in work to develop vaccines against disease such as HIV/AIDS=85this is important because Indian-origin animals have been used for more than half a century in biomedical and behavioural research. Rhesus macaques have contributed to the discovery of vaccines to prevent diseases such as polio and yellow fever, and represent on of the most widely used primate models for AIDS-related research. India, however, banned the export of all macaques in 1978, thus leading to the current shortage." - Press statement handed out by Washington National Center Project in May 31, 2006

The fact that the research industries now need to use Nepalese monkeys, due to their genetic similarity to their Indian counterparts means that Nepal now represents a weak link in the primate research chain. Ending the Nepalese export of primates would present a major problem to the global primate research industry and could seriously undermine 50 years of pointless research...which would force the researchers to explore different methodologies for performing their experiments!

The Nepalese people consider the rhesus monkey to be sacred and their export is actually an affront to their religious sensibilities. For this reason there is currently an active campaign inside Nepal to end the export of their primates to laboratories. The campaign has the support of all the environmental and animal protection groups within Nepal, as well as world renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall.

This has left the Nepalese Government in a very difficult position, with the EXTREMELY powerful American Research lobby and all their money, power and influence on one side and the general population of Nepal, with their campaign groups, on the other.

At present there are 261 monkeys in one of the breeding centres, including 81 F1 generation monkeys of which 26 will be ready to be exported to the USA this August. The government however has not yet provided export licenses for these animals and the breeding centres are apparently also having problems getting licenses to send DNA material to the USA.

The Nepalese Government is confused about if and how to further implement the "wildlife breeding act", (which allows for the monkeys to be bred in Nepal), and are clearly considering whether to end their support for the trade in rhesus monkeys altogether by implementing a ban on primate exports.

The latest news from the campaign inside Nepal is that the Government are wavering under the pressure of the campaign and public opinion, so a victory is possible...however, the American research institutes will not let this go without a fight! They desperately need those monkeys and they will use EVERY means at their disposal to get them!

Now is the time for the global animal rights movement to step up the pressure against the Nepalese Government in solidarity with the local campaign groups. We can win this campaign, Nepal currently represents THE weakest link in the primate research chain and it's a link that we CAN break!

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