A British animal welfare group said today it had exposed a cruel and secretive trade in endangered baboons which were being sold from Tanzania to medical research organizations in the United States.
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection said hundreds of Olive Baboons were being trapped and held for weeks in appalling conditions and warned that the trade was posing a threat to the primates’ future.
“Clearly if the trade continues unregulated then the chance is they will become even more endangered,” BUAV director of investigations Sarah Kite told Reuters.
Trade in Baboon Meat
The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) classes Olive Baboons as potentially in danger of extinction and has strict regulations governing their trade and shipment.
Primarily found in Tanzania and Kenya, the baboons are also threatened by the destruction of their natural habitat as well as a growing trade in their meat within Africa.
BUAV said it will pass a report of its undercover investigation into the treatment of the baboons on to CITES as well as to Tanzanian wildlife officials.
According to the report, the baboons are held in rows of crates so small they cannot stand up and can barely turn around. They are given little, if any, food or water.
BUAV, which has carried out similar investigations into the primate trade around the world, said the conditions were so bad many of the Olive Baboons seen in captivity may since have died.
Trapped in Tiny Crates
“The conditions are the worst ever seen during the years that the BUAV has been investigating the primate trade,” it said in a report.
“[The animals] were incarcerated individually in rows of small, dark wooden dilapidated crates, poorly constructed with bits of wood nailed together and broken wire,” it said of a market in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha.
“Many peered nervously out of a small piece of wire at the top of the crate. Others, clearly petrified, cowered and tried to hide as they were approached.”
Kite said the baboons were then shipped to the United States in journeys that often lasted three days. While the trade itself was not illegal, the conditions in which the animlas were kept were in breach of CITES rules, BUAV said.
On arrival, the baboons were used in xenotransplant experiments where they were transplanted with pig organs — some of which contained human genes.
No baboon had ever survived a xenotransplant experiment, Kite said.
Wildlife authorities in neighboring Kenya banned the export of baboons after a similar exposé in a British newspaper earlier this year.