Tag Archives: primates

Eastern gorillas critically endangered, nearing extinction

Illegal hunting in Democratic Republic of Congo has wiped out 70 percent of Eastern gorillas in the past two decades and pushed the world’s biggest primate close to extinction, a Red List of endangered species showed on Sunday.

Four of six species of great apes are now rated “critically endangered”, or one step away from extinction, by threats such as hunting and a loss of forests to farmland from West Africa to Indonesia, according to the annual list by wildlife experts.

Eastern gorillas, revised from a lesser category of “endangered”, join their sister species, the Western gorilla, and both species of orangutan which were already on the list as critically endangered.

The other two species of great apes, chimpanzees and bonobos, are rated endangered.

“To see the Eastern gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) which compiles the Red List.

Millions of people died in fighting in the mineral-rich east of Democratic Republic of Congo from 1996 and 2003 and militias and miners often hunted gorillas for food.

The main population of Eastern gorillas, the biggest primates weighing up to about 200 kg (440 lb), tumbled to an estimated 3,800 animals in 2015 from 16,900 in 1994, according to the report issued at an IUCN congress in Hawaii.

A smaller branch of the Eastern gorilla family – the mountain gorilla – has fared better with the population rising to 880 from perhaps 500 in Rwanda, Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chimpanzees were most able to adapt to a loss of forest habitats to oil palm plantations or other farms, while gorillas and orangutans were less flexible.

“Chimps get by even if there is only a remnant of a forest,” Elizabeth Williamson, of the IUCN species survival commission for primates, told Reuters. “They can raid crops and steal fruit from farms – gorillas and orangutans don’t.”

Among other changes, the IUCN said the population of plains zebra in Africa had fallen to about 500,000 animals from 660,000, also because of hunting for their meat and stripy skins. That put the species on a watchlist as “near threatened” after being of least concern.

PETA: Fine too low for death of primates at research facility

The federal government fined a private research facility after 13 primates died of hyperthermia in overheated rooms.

Covance Research Products in Alice was fined $31,500 for four violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act following the 2014 deaths of the cynomolgus monkeys, said Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

Espinosa said the maximum penalty for a single violation of the law is $10,000, so the maximum fine Covance faced was $40,000.

Two animals died in September 2014, when a thermostat malfunctioned at the facility.

The other deaths were caused by a similar incident about a month later, when a thermostat override switch failed.

The USDA issued a citation to Covance saying that it “failed to protect the health and well-being” of the animals.

The citation also found other primates suffered in July 2014, when they weren’t given water or proper care after being flown into Texas for Covance experiments.

“Covance directed transporters to travel without stopping to the Covance facility, despite being aware that the airline had not provided water as required, that the transport trailers’ air conditioning units were malfunctioning and that at least five nonhuman primates were weak and in distress,” the citation said.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said Covance was a “brazen violator” of animal welfare laws and that fines “could and should be substantially higher if they are going to deter violations.”

Covance didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The company has said the Alice facility would be manually monitored until it added electronic temperature monitoring and alerts.

The company has headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, and provides animal testing to aid in the development of drugs for an array of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes.

“Covance takes very seriously our ethical and regulatory responsibilities to treat research animals with the utmost care and respect,” the company said in a statement following the primate deaths.

Research and other facilities face unannounced USDA inspections each year, Espinosa said.

“We make sure they have fixed those areas of noncompliance, absolutely,” she said.

Captive and wild chimps listed as endangered under Endangered Species Act

Captive and wild chimpanzees are now listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The increased federal protection of captive chimpanzees is expected to curb the use of the animals in invasive biomedical research, interstate trade as pets and use by the entertainment industry.

The new listing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in response to a 2010 legal petition by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a permit for any activity that would involve harming, harassing, killing or the use of chimpanzees in interstate commerce is required.

Habitat loss and poaching, driven in part by the exploitation of captive chimpanzees, has led to a drop of more than 65 percent in populations of wild chimpanzees.

Fish and Wildlife previously recognized wild chimpanzees as endangered, yet captive chimpanzees did not have the protection. This “split-listing,” enacted in 1990, facilitated the exploitation of captive chimpanzees in the United States, according to the Humane Society. The new listing effectively ends the split-listing. 

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS said on June 12, “Combined with NIH’s decision two years ago to phase out the use of the vast majority of chimps in invasive experiments, today’s action signals a rather extraordinary commitment by this Administration to protect chimpanzees at home and abroad. These intelligent, beleaguered animals deserve these concerted, multi-pronged efforts to protect them.”

Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Messenger of Peace, issued a statement. She said,  “This change shows that many people are finally beginning to understand that it is not appropriate to subject our closest relatives to disrespectful, stressful or harmful procedures, whether as pets, in advertising or other forms of entertainment, or medical research.  That we are beginning to realize our responsibilities towards these sentient, sapient beings, and that the government is listening.”

The HSUS petition, which contained scientific evidence in support of upgrading the status of captive chimpanzees, spurred an official FWS status review of chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act. The review led to the 2013 proposed rule to protect all chimpanzees, which has now been finalized.

As a result of the final listing, FWS will evaluate each permit application to determine whether the proposed action would promote conservation of the species, as required by the ESA.

The petition was filed by a coalition of organizations, including the HSUS, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Fund for Animals and Humane Society International. The project involved the generous support of the Arcus Foundation.

The petition was prepared by lawyers with the HSUS’s animal protection litigation section in consultation with the Washington public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

PETA exposes abuse at monkey breeding facility in Florida

An undercover investigation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at a monkey breeding facility has led to a federal review at the southwest Florida business.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating a Primate Products Inc. in Hendry County, where an undercover worker found sick and injured monkeys living in inhumane and unsanitary conditions.

PETA released a video on June 1 showing conditions at the facility. PETA spokesman Dan Paden said the video was taken by a PETA employee who was hired to work undercover at the facility. PETA first gave the video exclusively to The Associated Press.

After meeting with PETA, inspectors from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service went to Primate Products Inc.

Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the USDA, said in an email to the AP that Primate Products Inc. has three weeks to appeal the USDA inspectors’ report, which won’t be made public until that process is complete.

Espinosa said that the USDA does “currently have an open investigation into this facility.”

The seven-minute video showed workers holding rhesus macaque monkeys with protruding rectal tissue by the tails. The video also purports to show monkeys in feces-covered cages, monkeys without working water dispensers, and primates with broken bones and exposed wounds. A monkey also allegedly died from hypothermia because of cold temperatures and another was injured by a bear. The monkeys are kept in outdoor cages.

“Primate Products has been awarded federal contracts worth more than $13 million of taxpayers’ money and ships monkeys to massive testing laboratories and universities,” said Dan Paden, a PETA spokesman. “Its customers, like our own National Institutes of Health, need to watch this footage and decide whether they want to continue to bankroll this cruelty and these animals’ violent capturing, pain, terror and deaths.”

Hendry County, in the southwestern part of the state near Naples and Fort Myers, is something of a mecca for primate breeding facilities. Three monkey breeding farms containing thousands of primates operate in the small, rural county and a fourth is in the works.

The companies say they’re doing nothing wrong, they’re properly permitted agricultural facilities and they’re in the area with the blessing of authorities.

In November, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against Hendry County officials who approved that Primate Products Inc. could hold as many as 3,200 long-tailed macaques, a species linked to outbreaks of infectious disease. The lawsuit said Hendry County approved the controversial project behind closed doors with only the facility’s supporters present and failed to hold the public hearing required by the state’s Sunshine Law. Last week, the lawsuit was expanded to include a second farm that rents space on the property.

Thomas J. Rowell, a veterinarian and president of Primate Products Inc., told The Associated Press that “the inspection was thorough.”

“This is part of the process in which we fully cooperated,” Rowell wrote in an email. “I’m not aware of who provided the video. We welcomed the USDA’s visit. It’s good when you get the opportunity to review your operation through the eyes of others. We are always looking for opportunities to improve upon our program and appreciate the corrective actions and timelines provided by the USDA. Staff looks forward to working together with the aim of improving upon our animal welfare program.”

Primate Products uses two species of macaques from China, Cambodia, Mauritius or Vietnam. The animals are quarantined upon arriving in the United States.

Primate Products then breeds the monkeys for resale and distribution to research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and the federal government, according to a company spokesman. The monkeys sell for about $3,200 each.

Activists and residents say that the facilities shouldn’t be covered under the county’s agricultural zoning regulations. Monkeys, they say, are very different from cows or horses.

“As seen in the video, the company takes spinal fluid and blood from these wild animals, which can in no way be considered the ‘agriculture’ use that the company’s land is zoned for,” Paden said. “Hendry County can and should put an end to this cruelty and shut Primate Products down immediately.”

PETA filed a formal complaint with the USDA, asking the agency to look into alleged violations of animal welfare and protection laws.

Rattling the cage: Court weighs in on personhood for non-humans

A New York court will decide this fall whether to apply “legal personhood” to an animal in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed on behalf of Tommy the Chimp.

On Oct. 8, a panel of five judges for the New York State Appeals Court heard from attorney Steven M. Wise, with the nonprofit Nonhuman Rights Project, on behalf of a 26-year-old chimpanzee.

 Tommy is owned as a pet and kept in a “dank shed” in upstate New York. Wise wants him to be relocated to the world’s largest chimpanzee retreat, the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. He also wants to convince the court that primates and other intelligent animals are entitled to “legal personhood” and deserving of such basic rights as freedom from imprisonment.

“No one has ever demanded a common law legal right for a nonhuman animal until now,” Wise said, asserting that his legal claim for Tommy is rooted in genetic, cognitive, evolutionary and taxonomic evidence that chimps are self-aware and autonomous.

Tommy’s case was filed in New York’s court system in December 2013, along with other lawsuits seeking the release of:

• Kiko, a 26-year-old chimp who lives in a cage on private property in Niagara Falls and was previously used in the entertainment industry.

• Hercules and Leo, young chimps who are owned by the New Iberia Research Center and used in biomedical research in the anatomy department at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.

In a parallel campaign, the NHRP is building a series of lawsuits on behalf of elephants, another highly intelligent species, being held in circuses and zoos.

Other organizations also are advocating personhood status for animals — elephants, dolphins and whales, as well as chimps, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos, humans’ closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

“There are 15 features to the human personality,” said animal rights advocate Shirley Maewhether of Madison. “A corporation doesn’t have them and yet it can have legal personhood. The great apes do have them all: intelligence, self-control, sense of time, sense of past, concern and care for others, curiosity, an ability to reason, feelings.

“They are not things. The are nonhuman persons.”

On Oct. 8, the judges in Albany who heard Tommy’s case asked:

• Isn’t legal personhood just about human beings? Wise observed that courts have extended legal person status to non-human entities and things.

• If relocated, wouldn’t Tommy still be confined? Wise said the chimp currently is in solitary confinement in a warehouse-like setting but the sanctuary consists of 13 islands and an artificial lake.

• Why aren’t animal welfare groups involved in the case? Wise said Tommy’s case is about unlawful imprisonment rather than animal welfare.

“Keeping a legal person in solitary confinement in a cage is unlawful,” Wise said.

The appeals court is expected to issue a ruling in six to eight weeks. 

Then, in December, comes Kiko’s day in court.