No Clarity on Monkey Exports Restart After Smuggling Charges

2 min read
Long tailed macaques packed in transport crates photographed by advocacy group Action for Primates.
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Wildlife smuggling charges against Cambodian officials have caused only a “delay” in macaque shipments, a U.S. importer said, as the Agriculture Ministry offered no clarity on whether it was taking any additional precautions as the trade resumes.

A U.S. federal court charged Agriculture Ministry officials Kry Masphal and Keo Omaliss for wildlife smuggling in mid-November as they allegedly helped Cambodian supplier Vanny Bio Research export wild-caught macaques as if they were farm-bred, violating international trafficking laws.

Masphal was arrested in New York at the time, but was released on bail late last month.

The U.S. nevertheless imported more than 10 tons of live primates by air in November from Cambodia — or 163 tons worth $203 million for the year through that month, according to U.S. trade data. December statistics are not yet available. Cambodia is by far the U.S.’s biggest supplier of the primates used for laboratory testing.

In early December, U.S. importer Inotiv said its supply from Cambodia was suspended. The Agriculture Ministry at the time disputed that there was a suspension, but it would not comment this month on renewed shipments.

Ministry spokesperson Im Rachana did not answer questions about whether there were any new restrictions or precautions in place as shipments resume.

Another U.S. importer, Charles River Laboratories, said in an email that it had experienced a “delay” in the shipment of Cambodian primates, but believed there was no universal suspension of shipments.

“While Cambodian NHP supply remains a fluid situation, the Company continues to work diligently to mitigate any potential impact with its ongoing efforts,” it said. NHP stands for non-human primates.

AELF FlightService, the parent company of Maleth Aero, did not respond to questions about a reported shipment of Cambodian macaques to Washington on December 29.

A man who answered the phone number for Vanny Bio Research chairman James Mansang Lau listed with the Commerce Ministry declined to comment on Tuesday. The company ran a sponsored article on the monkey trade in the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

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