Special Report:

Trends in Importation

Primates by the numbers

Trends in ImportationEach year, tens of thousands of nonhuman primates are sold by the "head" and packed into small crates bound for the U.S. Once the crates arrive after the grueling air journey, the primates are driven to a quarantine facility before reaching their final destination in a lab.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data analyzed by AAVS, the importation of nonhuman primates into the U.S. nearly doubled over the past decade from 10,530 animals in 1996 to 21,135 animals in 2010. (Figure 7) Though these data on are not strictly limited to animals imported for biomedical research and may include animals imported to zoos or the entertainment industry, the large majority of the nonhuman primates are destined for laboratories.

Imports of nonhuman primates into the U.S. appeared to be at an all-time high in the late 1950s, with an approximate 223,000 nonhuman primates imported in 1958 alone, primarily due to the use of rhesus macaques in experiments to develop a polio vaccine.10 There are conflicting data, but primate imports may have numbered well over 100,000 individuals each year through the 1960s.11, 12 At that time, many animals came from central and south America and were imported for the pet trade. Legal restrictions, including the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and trade bans/restrictions in Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Bangladesh, and India regarding the capture and export of nonhuman primates led to a significant decline in imports through the 1970s.13 The trade in all nonhuman primates is regulated on some level by CITES.

According to global trade data analyzed by the Species Survival Network, long-tailed macaques, or crab-eating macaques, (Macaca fascicularis) are by far the most common nonhuman primates currently imported for laboratory experiments. In fact, they are the "most heavily-traded mammal[s] currently listed on the CITES appendices."14 Rhesus macaques are second. Compared to trade during the years 1999-2003, global trade in long-tailed macaques more than doubled between 2004-2008 to 261,823.15

Figure 8 illustrates that 19,063 long-tailed macaques were imported into the U.S. in 2010. Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are the second most commonly imported primates with approximately 1,738 individuals imported into the U.S. in 2010. Other highly-imported primates include grivet/vervet monkeys, pig-tailed macaques, common marmosets, and squirrel monkeys.

Covance Research Products, Inc., a company that conducts preclinical drug testing on animals and also sells animals to other laboratories, imported 8,258 monkeys in 2010, which represents 39 percent of the nonhuman primates imported that year and making Covance the largest nonhuman primate importer in 2010. Other private companies conducting research, testing, breeding and/or selling for research, Charles River Laboratories, SNBL USA, Ltd., Worldwide Primates, Inc., and Primate Products, Inc. followed Covance as the top importers of 2010. (Figure 9)

Federal Oversight U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
USDA is charged by Congress to enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which includes regulations regarding the handling, treatment, use, and domestic and international transport of certain species used or intended for use in research, testing, education, exhibition, breeding, and sale of pets. The AWA includes minimal standards for carriers and intermediate handlers, primary enclosures used to transport nonhuman primates, mode of transport, food and water requirements, care in transit, transit terminal facilities, and handling.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
The USFWS regulates the importation, exportation, and interstate trade and transportation of live and dead nonhuman primates and their parts. Its authority derives from two U.S. laws: the Lacy Act, which prohibits the transport of mammals and birds into the U.S. under inhumane and unhealthful conditions; and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which restricts the importation, exportation, and interstate transport of animals classified under the Act as "threatened" or "endangered."

Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
An international treaty intended to protect globally traded wild animals and plants, CITES is enforced in the U.S. through the ESA. CITES Appendix I includes species who/which are threatened with extinction. Their commercial trade is prohibited, but import/export permits for scientific research may be allowed. CITES Appendix II includes animals and plants who/which may become threatened without some protection, and export (or re-export) permits must be issued by the exporting country before they can be transported. All nonhuman primates are listed on either CITES Appendix I or II.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC is responsible for protecting public health. This includes enforcement of regulations aimed to prevent the introduction, transmission, and/or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the U.S. As such, it regulates the importation of animals who have the potential to carry a communicable disease by monitoring the permitting and registration of imports and their quarantine. The CDC requires that nonhuman primate importers register with the agency, and certify that the nonhuman primates will be imported only for use in "bona fide" exhibition, education, or scientific purposes, not as pets. CDC must review proposed plans for each shipment of nonhuman primates arriving in the U.S., and it also monitors shipments upon arrival at ports of entry and the quarantine facilities, where imported animals must be kept for at least 31 days after arrival.

For expanded version, see Appendix A.
Continue Reading» 10. Rowan, A. N. (1984). Of mice, models, and men, a critical evaluation of animal research. (pp. 110). State University of New York Press, Albany.

11. Ibid.

12. Held, J.R. & Wolfle, T.L. (1994). "Imports: Current trends and usage." American Journal of Primatology, 3485-96.

13. Ibid.

14. Species Survival Network (July 2, 2011). "Selection of the long-tailed macaque (Macaca fasicularis) for inclusion in the review of significant trade (Resolution Conf. 12.8 (Rev. COP13)." Retrieved September 29, 2011, from http://www.ssn.org/Meetings/ac/ac25/SSN_Macaque_STR.pdf.

15. Ibid.

Ending the Use of Animals in Science