Federal wildlife officials found themselves in a tricky situation after they flagged recent shipments of research monkeys as improperly imported into the U.S.
The more than 1,000 long-tailed macaques were imported by Charles River Laboratories, a research company based in Massachusetts. Since being flagged by wildlife officials, the monkeys have been under the company’s care, a Charles River spokesperson said.
Over the past six months, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have contacted at least two animal sanctuaries to inquire about the cost of housing and feeding the primates for the rest of their lives.
One sanctuary quoted a price tag of $125 million — to cover staffing costs, the purchase of land and building infrastructure — before communication with government officials stalled last week.
The federal government then decided to ship the monkeys back to Cambodia, according to PETA, but the animal rights groups are fighting back.
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“We know that the monkeys are not going to be safe at the other end,” said Liz Tyson, programs director at Born Free USA, the organization that provided the $125 million quote to wildlife officials.
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said the group is urging Fish and Wildlife to “do the right thing and send these gentle beings to worthy, willing sanctuaries.”
It’s not clear what prompted Fish and Wildlife to block Charles River from using the monkeys. An agency spokesperson said the monkey shipments were refused clearance as a result of an ongoing investigation but did not provide more details.
The importation of monkeys used in medical research is strictly regulated, requiring paperwork that attests that the primates have come from breeding facilities.
The Justice Department has for years been investigating whether American companies, including Charles River, were involved in the smuggling of monkeys poached from the wild and brought to the U.S. with falsified paperwork.
The overall number of animals killed does not necessarily mean that Neuralink is doing its study in violation of laws or best practices. Nevertheless, Elon Musk faces a federal probe over the Neuralink monkey tests.
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