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Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite

News Releases 2021

The following are news releases for 2021. See elsewhere for news releases from previous years.


28th June 2021

Marmosets in the Netherlands subjected to inescapable electric shocks to study PTSD

Animal Protection groups have severely criticised publicly funded research in which marmosets were subjected to inescapable electric shocks to their feet in an experiment to study post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people (1). PTSD is an anxiety disorder, which can develop after a traumatic, harmful or life-threatening event, such as combat exposure, an accident or physical assault. The study was done purportedly to evaluate the effect of ketamine which is used as an anaesthetic for people and other animals – on fear memory, heart rate, cortisol levels and sleep, which are affected in people suffering from PTSD.

The work was done at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), Rijswijk, in the Netherlands, and funded by the European Framework Program 7 (2).

Animal Rights (Netherlands) and Action for Primates (UK) are calling for an end to the research at the BPRC, Europe's largest non-human primate research centre funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Dutch government banned the use of chimpanzees at the BPRC several years ago but allowed research to continue using other non-human primates.

In the recently published research, twelve adult female common marmosets were used in the research. They were placed in a passive avoidance apparatus with two compartments (dark vs illuminated). Confined in one of the compartments with an electric grid floor, they were subjected to four random inescapable foot-shocks within a 15-minute period.

The marmosets were subjected to highly invasive abdominal surgery to implant a transmitter device to record sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) (recording of the electrical activity of the brain) and the heart rate by electrocardiogram (ECG). Electrode wires for the ECG were tunnelled through the subcutaneous tissue to the chest and fixed to a muscle and those for the EEG were inserted through the subcutaneous tissue to the skull and fixed by a surgical screw and dental cement.

Clinical observations were carried out once a day when the animals were scored on displaying signs of apathy, immobility, inadequate grooming, huddle (foetus-like posture), stereotypic behaviour (non-purposeful repetitive movements such as circling). The scoring ranged from 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).

All the marmosets were killed to study the brains.

Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, stated: Subjecting non-human primates to inescapable foot shocks in an attempt to simulate PTSD in people is a simplistic and very inhumane way of studying this distressing disorder. The general treatment hypothesis could be tested more effectively and humanely in people with PTSD. The BPRC claims it adheres to the 3Rs and …promotes the use of alternatives to animal experiments where possible and considers their development to be part of its mission. I believe that this study is contradictory to that.

Animal Rights founder Robert Molenaar stated: Generating so much stress, fear and pain in animals that are so much like us is nonsensical and completely unacceptable.

Animal Rights has started a petition (https://www.animalrights.nl/bprc-apen-krijgen-elektrische-schokken-toegediend) and sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament calling for the closure of the BPRC.

References:

  1. Philippens, Ingrid H.C.H.M.; Draaisma, Laurijn; Baarends, Guus; Krugers, Harm J. and Vermetten, Eric. 2021-09-01. "Ketamine treatment upon memory retrieval reduces fear memory in marmoset monkeys" European Neuropsychopharmacology 50:1-11.
  2. European Framework Program 7, EUPRIM-Net II grant number 262443

25th June 2021

Cambridge University provides step-by-step guide for surgery and training to create depression in marmosets

Action for Primates, an animal protection project that campaigns on behalf of non-human primates worldwide, has raised concerns about animal suffering and the validity of a protocol developed by the University of Cambridge, in which common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) are being used as living test vehicles for testing drugs for human mental health issues. Placed on a restricted diet, the marmosets have holes drilled into their brains for drugs to be injected and their abdomens opened to implant a measuring device into a major blood vessel. They are then forced to carry out tasks inside small testing boxes.

The researchers, from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute and financially supported by the Medical Research Council (publicly funded) and Wellcome Trust, describe the methodology used to create a model of anhedonia-like symptoms and depression in marmosets and are promoting this widely in the scientific community by publishing a 'how to' paper (1).

The recently published paper describes the protocol the researchers use, step-by-step, starting with the training of the marmosets to carry out certain tasks. Food rewards (non-nourishing marshmallow sweets) are used in training and testing, but to 'motivate' the marmosets to work, their diet is restricted on 5 out of 7 days each week. The marmosets are put into a Pavlovian discrimination testing chamber – an enclosed testing box with LED strips and audio speakers (click here to see a video from the article, showing a marmoset being tested in this chamber).

The marmosets are subjected to at least two major surgeries, including one to implant intracerebral cannulae to target different areas of the brain with drugs in which a dental drill is used to drill holes through the skull and into the brain cavity to insert cannulae. Drugs are then injected into the regions of the marmoset's brain where activity is purported to be relevant to impaired reward processing in depression in people and, the researchers claim, can be used to test the efficacy of antidepressant drugs.

Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure from things that normally would cause pleasure. Blunted sensitivity to rewards is associated with anhedonia and is a core feature of depression in people. There is no evidence, however, that any other primate species experiences this. Further, because there is no way to know what the marmosets are feeling, the researchers have to limit their claim to measuring or looking for anhedonia-like [emphasis added] signs in the animals.

The complex emotional, genetic and environmental stressors that cause mental illness and depression in people cannot be compared with the simplistic marmoset model created by these researchers. Further, it is clear from the authors' own statements that the issues can be – and have been – studied in people and that there are serious limitations in the marmoset, including:

The researchers claim that they keep the marmosets ...in a manner that fully supports their biological and social needs with paired housing wherever possible [emphasis added] and a spacious home cage with enrichment objects.

According to Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California: Such a claim is incorrect given that marmosets are highly social animals, live in lush jungle habitat with an abundance of trees for climbing and nesting, and an extensive and rich variety of food. None of what the researchers provide the marmosets comes even close to approximating a normal environment or providing for a normal lifestyle that ensures the maximum opportunities for well-being.

Action for Primates believes that the marmoset project is inconsistent with claims made by the University of Cambridge that they …place good welfare at the centre of all our animal research and aim to meet the highest standards… (2) and that they scrutinise …research projects and procedures involving the use of live animals to ensure that the 3Rs – reduction, refinement and replacement – have been adequately applied… (3)

Action for Primates has written to Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, urging the University of Cambridge to place a permanent moratorium on the use of non-human primates in research.

References:

  1. Alexander, Laith; Banai-Tizkar, Rana; Wood, Christian M. and Roberts, Angela C. 2021-06-18. "Quantifying anhedonia-like symptoms in marmosets using appetitive Pavlovian conditioning" Structured, Transparent, Accessible, Reproducible Protocols 2(2):100454.
  2. https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/research-at-cambridge/animal-research
  3. https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/research-at-cambridge/animal-research/overseeing-animal-research/governance/the-animal-welfare-and-ethical-review-body

Action for Primates:
E-mail: info@actionforprimates.org
https://actionforprimates.org/

18th June 2021

Members of European Parliament raise concerns with European Commission over the trapping of wild monkeys in Mauritius

Members of the European Parliament have raised concerns with the European Commission regarding the trapping of wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Mauritius. This follows the Mauritius government recently giving its approval to allow the expansion of one non-human primate farm with up to 1,000 macaques to be captured from the wild to be used for breeding. The MEPs include Ms. Manuela Ripa, Mr. Guenther Sidl, Ms. Marie Toussaint, Ms. Anja Hazekamp, Mr. Francisco Guerreriro. Mr. Martin Buschmann, Ms. Eleonora Evi and Mr. Raphaël Glucksmann.

Ms. Manuela Ripa, MEP stated:

The intended expansion of Mauritius' program to capture wild macaques is very alarming. With this, the country seeks to broaden breeding efforts to be able to supply the international market – including the EU – with monkeys for testing purposes. This could lead to large-scale commercial trapping of wild animals, which would be a major setback for biodiversity protection and animal welfare.

Mr. Raphaël Glucksmann, MEP stated:

The European Union led the way when it included the welfare of animals in its treaties as early as the 1990s. It did so again, in a practical way, when it proposed in 2010 to prohibit scientific experiments on wild primates. The ban should take effect next year, after too many long years of preparation.

In a backward move, the government of Mauritius has recently approved the extension of an establishment breeding long-tailed macaques. The owner intends to use animals captured in the wild in this breeding establishment.

As most of the primates used for scientific research purposes in the European Union come from Mauritius, we cannot just stand by and let this happen. We must not take the risk of importing macaques taken from the wild into the EU, even if this is legal for a few more months.

We call on the Commission to act. In accordance with the high level of European ambition in relation to animal welfare, it must ensure that no wild primates will be used in Europe for the purposes of scientific research.

The questions asked of the European Commission by the MEPs include: Considering that the EU has set the date for ending the use of wild-caught primates and first-generation offspring in research, is it not incongruous that at the same time the EU is importing primates from a country that not only condones a wild-caught trade but is also allowing it to expand? How will the EU ensure that primates imported from Mauritius are genuinely captive bred or not sourced from farms that are involved in the export or trapping of long-tailed macaques for breeding purposes?

A coalition of animal groups in Europe and Mauritius (Action for Primates, One Voice, Animal Rights and Progress Science Mauritius), that led an international campaign to oppose the expansion and capture of wild monkeys, is grateful to the MEPs for responding to its concerns and has welcomed the submission of questions to the European Commission.

Mauritius is the main supplier of monkeys to Europe for research, exporting many thousands each year. In 2020, long-tailed macaques were exported to the following EU countries: Spain (2,126), France (1,027), Netherlands (290) and Germany (29).

In acknowledging that animal welfare, animal health and ethical problems arise from the capture of non-human primates in the wild, the EU decided to end its involvement in the capture of monkeys from the wild for scientific and breeding purposes. From 2022, the EU will only allow non-human primates to be used in research if they are the offspring of animals who have been bred in captivity (F2/F2+ generation), sourced from self-sustaining colonies. Recent developments in Mauritius, however, point to the resumption of a wild-caught trade for breeding and export, when in April, the Mauritius government approved the expansion of one non-human primate farm, Biosphere Trading Ltd, allowing up to 1,000 macaques to be captured from the wild to be used for breeding.

The animal groups are dismayed that the trapping of long-tailed macaques is taking place and calls this a major step backwards in terms of animal welfare, especially at a time when there is widespread global concern over the capture of wild non-human primates, because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the removal of such animals from their natural habitat, social and family groups.

NOTES

2010/63/EU The European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Article 10) Directive. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2010/63/oj

26th April 2021

Animal Protection groups outraged as Mauritius government gives permission for capture of wild monkeys and expansion of monkey breeding farm for vivisection

Animal Protection groups have condemned as a 'backward step' the decision by the government of Mauritius to grant permission for the expansion of Biosphere Trading Ltd and to allow the company to capture around 1,000 wild monkeys. Biosphere Trading, a company at Closel in Tamarin Falls, breeds and exports long-tailed macaques for research. It has been reported that it will now increase its current capacity of 800 monkeys to 7,500 monkeys, with the aim of exporting 1,500 monkeys per year to the USA and Canada (1).

Mauritius is already one of the world's largest exporters of monkeys for the global research industry, exporting thousands of monkeys every year to the USA and Europe. In 2020, 10,827 long-tailed macaques were exported from the country, an increase of 40% (3,088 monkeys) to 2019.

The animal groups Action for Primates, Progress Science Mauritius, One Voice and Animal Rights, who led an international campaign representing many thousands of people from within Mauritius and around the world, are dismayed this decision was made at a time when there is widespread global concern over the capture of wild non-human primates, especially because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the removal of such animals from their natural habitat, social and family groups. They are concerned that such a step could lead to the resumption of the large-scale commercial trapping of wild long-tailed macaques in Mauritius.

Several official bodies and organisations, including the European Union, recognise the suffering involved in the capturing of wild non-human primates. For example, the International Primatological Society (IPS):

...the capture of nonhuman primates from the wild is stressful for the animals and increases the suffering, risk of injuries, spread of disease and even death during capture, storage and transport (2)

The European Union Directive (applied across the EU in 2013) recognises that the capture of non-human primates from the wild is highly stressful for the animals concerned and carries an elevated risk of injury and suffering during capture and transport. In order to end the capture of animals from the wild, including for purposes of breeding, the Directive introduced provisions with the objective of moving towards using only non-human primates who have been bred in self-sustaining colonies, from parents who themselves have been bred in captivity (3).

Holding and transportation are additional sources of stress and suffering, as the monkeys are shipped on long journeys around the world in the cargo holds of aeroplanes. There has been much evidence accumulated over the years that has revealed the immense cruelty and suffering that is inflicted on monkeys during their capture, caging, holding and transportation.

ENDS

Action for Primates:
E-mail: info@actionforprimates.org

References:

  1. Exportation à des fins de recherche médicale : feu vert du GM au plus grand projet d'élevage. https://defimedia.info/exportation-des-fins-de-recherche-medicale-feu-vert-du-gm-au-plus-grand-projet-delevage?fbclid=IwAR21Wd2bnNPFQPzyQX6iBfWVtxwLR7eUaaX7gApVCl4TuYPfhAEeli2KBG8
  2. "Trade in Primates Captured in the Wild". International Primatological Society. http://www.internationalprimatologicalsociety.org/TradeInWildPrimates.cfm
  3. 2010/63/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Article 10) Directive. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2010/63/oj

YouTuber in Indonesia who abused monkeys is fined and sentenced to imprisonment

18th April 2021

Action for Primates and Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN) have welcomed the conviction of a YouTuber for animal cruelty by the authorities in Jakarta. Rian Mardiansyah abused and mistreated monkeys and filmed their suffering for 'entertainment' which he then broadcast on the YouTube channel Abang Satwa (previously called 'Monkey Raging').

The trial took place on 9th April 2021 at the Jakarta Selaten District Court Office (Kantor Pengadilan Negeri Jakarta Selaten). Mardiansyah was sentenced to a fine of Rp. 402,000 and 15 days imprisonment for behaviour relating to exploitation and violence against monkeys (1).

In February, Mardiansyah's monkeys were confiscated by the authorities in Jakarta, including Satpol PP South Jakarta Administrative City and the local government / pemda DKI, following complaints submitted to Dr Anies Baswedan, the Governor of Jakarta, by Action for Primates and Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN). The three macaques, Boris, Mona and Boim, are now safely at the JAAN rescue centre and have started their new lives free from the torment and cruelty to which they were being subjected daily.

Examples of Mardiansyah's cruel behaviour towards the monkeys included spraying them with jets of water, rubbing obnoxious substances such as glue or chilli onto their food, lighting firecrackers and sparklers to scare them and encouraging the monkeys to fight each other by teasing them with food. He then posted these videos with sound tracks and commentary on his YouTube channel.

Sarah Kite, co-founder and spokesperson for Action for Primates, stated: We are grateful to Dr Anies Baswedan and the authorities in Jakarta who responded to our complaint concerning animal cruelty by confiscating these monkeys and prosecuting the individual involved. We hope this conviction will send an important message and help to deter other people from inflicting cruelty on monkeys and other animals in the guise of 'entertainment' for broadcast on YouTube and other social media platforms.

The conviction of Mardiansyah and confiscation of the monkeys have also shone a spotlight on YouTube and its shameful promotion of animal cruelty by allowing such abusive content to be broadcast on its platform. There has been a proliferation of such animal cruelty videos appearing online across social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition, of which Action for Primates and JAAN are members, is playing a key role in co-ordinating efforts among animal welfare organisations across the world and raising awareness and educating the public. Its Website provides information and lists the many ways that people can take action to help end this animal cruelty content (2).

The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition has also recently sent a letter to the Mr Ganjar Pranowo, Governor of Jawa Tengah, urging the authorities to take steps to investigate other similar YouTube channels based in Indonesia. Such channels, including 'Monkey Ji' whose owner also abuses and mistreats monkeys held in captivity and broadcasts their torment and suffering on YouTube (3).

Notes:

  1. Law Number 18 of 2009 Article 66 paragraph 2 and amendments to UU Law Number 41 of 2014 concerning Animal Husbandry and Animal welfare.
  2. https://www.asiaforanimals.com/smacc-public-advice
  3. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mKMmMDv0T6H5pZgcBuimSeMsJmvXL9q4/view

For further information:

Action for Primates:
E-mail: info@actionforprimates.org
Web site: https://actionforprimates.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ActionforPrimates
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/actionforprimates/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Action4Primates

Jakarta Animal Aid Network is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of animals in Indonesia:
E-mail: jakartaanimalaid@gmail.com
Website: https://www.jakartaanimalaid.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jakartaanimalaidnetwork/?hl=en

Indonesia in breach of its own wildlife legislation by allowing export of wild-caught monkeys

26th February 2021

Action for Primates has criticised a decision by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to allow the capture and export of 2,070 long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in 2021 for biomedical research, despite legislation that was introduced in the country in 1994 that prevented such exports of wild macaques. The 2,070 quota has been allocated to two companies that export macaques for research: CV Primaco and CV Inquatex.

Sarah Kite, spokesperson for Action for Primates, has stated: To allow the export of wild long-tailed macaques is not only a breach of Indonesian wildlife legislation, it is also a huge backward step at a time when there is widespread global condemnation of the trapping of wild non-human primates, especially because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the forcibly removal from their natural habitat, social and family groups.

The resumption of capturing and exporting wild long-tailed macaques by Indonesia is an alarming development. Several official bodies and organisations recognise the suffering involved in the capturing of wild non-human primates. For example, the International Primatological Society has stated:

...the capture of nonhuman primates from the wild is stressful for the animals and increases the suffering, risk of injuries, spread of disease and even death during capture, storage and transport (1)

The European Union recognised that the capture of non-human primates from the wild is highly stressful for the animals concerned and carries an elevated risk of injury and suffering during capture and transport. In order to end the capture of animals from the wild for research, including for purposes of breeding, the European Union Directive (2010/63/EU) introduced provisions with the objective of moving towards using only non-human primates who have been bred in self-sustaining colonies, from parents who themselves have been bred in captivity. The implementation date for these new provisions has been set for 2022. (2)

Long-tailed macaques are indigenous to Indonesia and are part of the rich and diverse ecosystem, contributing to the country's unique biodiversity. The species is listed under Appendix II on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Further, there has been a new global assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species for the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque. The species has now been listed as 'Vulnerable' with a decreasing population trend (3).

The reason often cited by authorities for allowing the capture of long-tailed macaques is that the animals are coming into 'conflict' with residents and farmers in local communities. An ever-increasing expansion and encroachment into wildlife habitat by people is the primary cause for these 'conflicts', not the fault of the macaques. Rather than allowing wild macaques to be trapped and exported for research, Action for Primates urges the authorities to resolve the issues that lead to negative interactions, such as deforestation and disposal of food waste that results in macaques being attracted to human settlements.

Action for Primates calls on the Government of Indonesia to enact legislation that provides protection for the indigenous long-tailed macaques and urges the adoption of humane and preventative methods that can be used to resolve 'conflicts' without resorting to their capture and export.

ENDS

Action for Primates is a not-for-profit group that campaigns on behalf of non-human primates worldwide.
E-mail: info@actionforprimates.org
Web site: https://actionforprimates.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ActionforPrimates
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/actionforprimates/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Action4Primates

References:

  1. "Trade in Primates Captured in the Wild" International Primatological Society: http://www.internationalprimatologicalsociety.org/TradeInWildPrimates.cfm
  2. 2010/63/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Article 10) Directive: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2010/63/oj
  3. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/12551/17949449