Author Topic: Fears wild monkeys illegally imported for research 13.02.2012  (Read 745 times)

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Fears wild monkeys illegally imported for research 13.02.2012
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2012, 05:07:51 PM »
AUSTRALIA'S importation of primates for research has sparked an investigation into allegations that the little-known trade breaches international agreements on animal welfare.

The Deputy Speaker of Federal Parliament, Anna Burke, has asked the Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, if monkeys imported from Indonesia, classified as bred in captivity, have been taken from the wild, in breach of Australian and international protocols.

Ms Burke has also questioned why Australia has had to import at least 368 pigtail macaques from Indonesia for research since 2000, when it has three long-established, government-funded primate breeding centres in Victoria and NSW.

Australia and Indonesia are signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, which bans the export for research of primates caught in the wild.

An undercover investigation by a British animal rights group found Indonesia was classing monkeys from an island off West Java as being bred in captivity rather than in the wild. The island is home to the monkeys imported by Australia.

The pigtail macaque is in danger of being added to the threatened species list unless trade is strictly regulated. The European Union recently suspended imports.

In a letter to Mr Emerson, Ms Burke said importing primates was irresponsible because of uncertainty about their origins.

"The unethical importation of these creatures is not necessary as we have the capacity to supply primates for research in Australia through our three domestic primate breeding facilities,'' she said.

Ms Burke wrote to Mr Emerson after meeting the animal rights group Humane Research Australia last year.

The push for a ban on importing primates for research is gathering momentum, with a federal Labor MP, Mike Symon, last year presenting a petition with 10,300 signatures to Parliament.

Indonesia's Garuda airline said last year that it would no longer transport primates or other animals destined for use in research, toxicity testing and other experiments.

The Health Department is reviewing its policy on primate imports for research and has called for public submissions. The present policy bans research on monkeys captured in the wild.

The Environment Department, which along with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service oversees the importation of the monkeys, said it relied on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species' Indonesian officials to verify the accuracy of information provided in export permits.

Indonesia's Tinjil Island is the source of the pigtail macaques exported to Australia.

An Environment Department spokeswoman said the department was not aware of any Australian officials visiting Tinjil Island to assess Indonesia's claim monkeys are bred in captivity.

Presenting the petition to Parliament in November, Mr Symon said the Indonesian authority responsible for ensuring the country's obligations to the international convention on trade of endangered species were met had classified the monkeys as "born in captivity", and therefore exempt from export bans.

A report by the British Union Against Vivisection rejected the claim that island breeding could be considered captive breeding.

"True captive breeding comprises a closed environment where variables can be strictly controlled one where monkeys are excluded from other wildlife and placed in an environment where they have no direct impact on the ecosystem," it said.

The chief executive of Humane Research Australia, Helen Marston, said Australia should aim to end the use of primates in medical research rather than import animals.

''Banning the importation of further animals should not be of any detriment to Australian research," she said.

The secretariat of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species did not respond to questions about allegations its Indonesia-based management team was failing to stop the improper export of monkeys.

Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie

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