US Monkey Importer Says It No Longer Gets Animals From Cambodia

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Monkey cages line around 300 warehouses at Vanny Bio Research. (Tran Techseng/VOD)
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A publicly traded American importer of laboratory monkeys says its supply from Cambodia has stopped after the U.S. indicted a Cambodian supplier for allegedly trafficking wild macaques, delaying its fourth-quarter earnings report as two of its subsidiaries face grand jury subpoenas related to the case. 

Management at Vanny Bio Research, which has monkey farms in Pursat and elsewhere, face felony charges of conspiracy and smuggling. Two Cambodian Agriculture Ministry officials are also charged in the case, and one of them was arrested in New York last month.

The U.S. alleges that thousands of wild monkeys were caught and brought to Vanny Bio Research farms then falsely certified as captive-bred in order to be exported.

Workers at the Pursat farm last month spoke of seeing wild monkeys being brought into the facility, while nearby mountains were known among locals as sites for monkey-hunting.

The case has now touched Indiana-based Inotiv, Inc., a drug research and biopharmaceutical company that said in a statement that Vanny Bio Research was its “principal supplier.” The company delayed its annual financial report in light of the U.S. indictment.

It added that it was no longer receiving monkeys from Cambodia.

“We have been informed that Cambodia has currently ceased any exports of NHPs, and therefore we are not currently importing any NHPs from Cambodia,” it said, using an abbreviation for non-human primates. “We do not know when or if they intend to resume allowing shipments or when and if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow shipments.”

The company was importing monkeys from other countries, but “without imports from China (which are currently banned by China) and/or Cambodia, NHP supply to us, and to U.S. customers generally, will be increasingly limited,” it said.

Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Im Rachana, however, said Tuesday afternoon that exports had not been stopped.

“MAFF would like to clarify that the Cambodia government has not suspended any export of Long Tailed Macaque to the international market,” Rachana said.

Following the arrest of its official Kry Masphal in New York last month, the Agriculture Ministry issued a statement denying the U.S. court’s claims and backing its indicted officials.

Inotiv’s statement on Monday said the company would stop selling its stock of Cambodian monkeys to customers amid the allegations of wildlife trafficking.

“The Company strongly condemns any and all unauthorized trading and importation of any endangered species,” it said, adding that there was a “pressing need” to reduce the numbers of monkeys used in drug discovery and research, but that it would take time to achieve safe means to do so.

About 60% of all primates imported into the U.S. during the 12 months to September 30 were from Cambodia, Inotiv said.

Inotiv was fully cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office, including supplying documents and information from two subsidiaries on the import of monkeys into the U.S., it said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or Peta, called on laboratories that have bought monkeys from Inotiv to conduct a “full accounting” of their animals and transfer any monkeys found to have been illegally trafficked to a sanctuary.

“In the eyes of the law, any laboratory now confining a smuggled monkey is in possession of illegal contraband that can be seized,” said Peta senior vice president Kathy Guillermo in a statement. “No monkey should be subjected to life in a laboratory for any reason; the vile experimentation business must end now, and labs should start by sending illegally trafficked primates to sanctuaries.”

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