Monkey Madness - Stop the Importation of Primates for Research

Image courtesy of BUAV
Image courtesy of BUAV

Did you know that Australia is currently home to three government-funded primate breeding facilities - the National Marmoset and Macaque Facilities at Churchill, Victoria and the National Baboon Facility in Sydney, all of which breed animals specifically for the purpose of being used in research?

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Since 2000, despite this "ready supply", eleven permits have been granted to import primates into Australia for research.  Data obtained from CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species - to which Australia is a signatory), has shown that between 2000-2015, Australia has imported: 

  • 331 pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable to extinction (from Indonesia) 
  • 250 crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) listed on the IUCN Red List from Indonesia 
  • 71 owl monkeys (Aotus lemurinus grisembra) listed on the IUCN Red List from the US.[15] 
  • 37 marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) from France
  • 1 marmoset from Switzerland
  • 10 long-tailed macaques from France

Captured from the Wild

Image courtesy of BUAV
Image courtesy of BUAV

The National Health & Medical Research Council's policy on the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposesstates "Non-human primates imported from overseas must not be taken from wild populations and must be accompanied by documentation to certify their status." (4) Similarly, Indonesia has an official ban on the export of wild-caught macaques. Ironically, there is no restriction on the number of monkeys who can be trapped in the wild to replenish breeding stocks.
In April 2009, the British Union Against Vivisection (BUAV) published a report on its undercover investigation: Indonesia: The trade in primates for research. Not surprisingly, the report concluded that the ban on wild-caught macaques is a sham.

Conservation Status

Pig-tailed macaques are classified as Appendix II under CITES, meaning that "although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival."(5) With Indonesian forests being destroyed by logging, conversion of land for agricultural use and human settlement, continual trade in these primates for research will further exacerbate the losses from habitat destruction.

Bogor Agricultural University

The BUAV report also documents conditions at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) - where Australia's imports were sourced from!

Extract from BUAV Report

"The BUAV investigators visited one holding facility at the IPB which they were told infant and juvenile long-tailed macaques who had been taken there after they had been trapped on Tinjil Island. The facility contained a number of small rooms, each containing one small chain link pen housing around 15-20 monkeys. The pens were a barren environment with a metal grid floor. There was no substrate for the monkeys to play or dig in. There was virtually no enrichment, just a few perches.

The monkeys could only climb the side of the pens and there was nowhere for them to hide from each other or people. The pens were indoors so there was no fresh air and limited sunlight through one window. Only one pen was seen to have a water bottle attached to it. The others had free standing bowls made from either rubber or plastic. In at least one pen, this bowl was empty, leaving the monkeys no access to water. The only evidence of food was a few pieces of monkey chow seen on the wire floor of one pen. In other pens no food was visible.

The areas underneath the pens were covered in waste and what appeared to be monkey chow biscuits that had fallen through the grid floor. Mould could be seen growing on some of the food. This was a stressful environment in which these monkeys were forced to live. These conditions were in stark contrast to living freely in family groups in a natural environment on Tinjil Island."(6)

Added to this fear and misery are the holding pens at airports and long arduous flights to destination countries - all this before the research begins!

There is NO justification for Australia to support this international trade in cruelty and perpetuating bad science.

Australian researchers should be using non-animal methodologies that are far more relevant to studying human disease rather than trying to replicate a disease in a species that is genetically different to our own and expecting to achieve accurate or indicative results for humans.

Instead of logically reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of primates, Australian researchers are utilizing those already bred within our three established colonies, and still importing more!

Current situation 

In 2011, Labor MP Mike Symon presented a petition of over 10,000 signatures to the House of Representatives calling for a ban on the importation of primates for research. Mr Symon's speech can be read here.

In November 2012, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon introduced a private members bill to the Senate. HRA was invited to attend their media conference.

In November 2015 the bill was re-presented and has been referred to inquiry by the Senate Environment and Communications Committee.

We need you to add your voice in support of this important bill!

Primates are already subjected to highly invasive experiments. Long distance transportation adds even further stress and suffering of these sentient and highly cognitive animals. This is our chance to convince the Australian government to end the trade.

Please make a submission on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Live Imports of Primates for Research) Bill 2015.

Submissions close: 18 January 2016 however the committee has confirmed that they are accepting late submissions.

The following steps will assist you in making a submission (for which there is no prescribed format):

1. Prepare your submission in a Word document. Note that your name will be published but not contact details. You also have the option of lodging anonymously. It is important that your submission is written in your own words – even if it's a brief sentence or two. You can check our campaign page Monkey Madness for information to help you.

2. To enable you to lodge a submission you first need to create a 'My Parliament log in" at and accept the email that is sent to you.

3. Then, go to the 'Make a Submission' page, login, and upload your submission.

Thank you so much for your support!

  • Submissions close: 18 January 2016
  • Hearing date:  Early February 2016 tbc
  • Report Due: 1 March 2016

You can find information about the bill, including the bill text and the explanatory memorandum on its homepage here: 

We need your help!

Write to the following ministers and ask that the Australian Government impose an immediate ban on the importation of primates for research:

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment
House of Representatives
PO Box 6022
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon. Sussan Ley

Minister for Health
House of Representatives
PO Box 6022
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

  • Download our Primate importation petition. Ask your friends, relatives and work colleagues to sign, then return to us ASAP so that we may submit them to the House of Representatives seeking an immediate ban.
  • Visit the BUAV website to obtain contact details of the airlines that do, or would, fly primates for research purposes and ask that they stop supporting the cruel trade.
  • If you are not already a member, please consider joining Humane Research Australia. For a small annual fee of $30 you can add your voice to ours in lobbying for effective change.

Whilst HRA opposes the use of ALL primates (as well as other animals) in research, we believe that this ban will be a significant step toward reducing the suffering of many animals and assisting the BUAV's efforts to end the international trade.

4. Policy on the Use of Non-Human Primates for Scientific Purposes, NHMRC, page 5, item 7.

5. CITES Text of the Convention: as quoted by BUAV Indonesia: the trade in primates for research. 2009.

6. Indonesia. The trade in primates for research A BUAV investigation, April 2009, page 18.

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