FREDERICK, Md. (7News) — Last December, 7News exposed details in court records that revealed almost 1,000 monkeys, were flown into the DMV over recent months. Some arrived on a private plane at Dulles Airport where PETA held a silent protest.
Dulles had no involvement in the shipment. The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted eight people in Cambodia in connection to the shipments.
"They're taken away from their families. They are forced to travel in these tiny crates for more than 30 hours so they can be sold to laboratories here in the United States,” said Dr. Alka Chandra, Vice President of Laboratory Investigations with PETA.
Those monkeys have not been declared illegal, but are being denied entry and are in limbo in the United States.
7News sources believe some are being housed at Charles River Labs in Frederick, Maryland.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services told 7News:
“As a result of an ongoing investigation, the referenced shipments were refused clearance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Disposition of shipments that are refused clearance varies based on circumstances, and we are unable to comment further on these shipments at this time.”
Christina M. Meister
Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service"
“The macaque is the monkey we are talking about,” said Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, PETA’s Senior Science Advisor for Primate Experimentation.
Dr. Jones-Engel believes the U.S. only has three choices. Return them to Cambodia, kill them, or PETA's preferred choice: release all to Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.
“Because these are a lot of monkeys and sanctuaries in the U.S. have never even contemplated this type of rescue,” added Dr. Jones-Engel.
PETA and Born Free USA have sent this letter to Charles River Laboratories CEO James Foster and the company’s 10 biggest shareholders asking for an urgent meeting to decide the fate of 1,000 endangered monkeys.
PETA said the National Institute of Health’s Animal Center in Dickerson, Md. currently has a contract with Charles River Labs to manage some of the monkeys.
“What do you say to people who say. 'why don’t we just ship them back to Cambodia and release them back into the wild?' Why can’t we do that do you think?” asked 7News Investigator Scott Taylor.
“These monkeys can’t go back to Cambodia. They can’t go back into the wild. They are from all over. The indication is that they have been plucked out of the forest from all over Southeast Asia,” said Dr. Jones-Engel.
Charles River Labs, which has not been criminally charged with any wrongdoing, tells 7News its shipments are not from the same Cambodian shipper currently under investigation and goes on to say:
"Charles River is steadfastly opposed to the illegal importation of non-human primates that are not purpose-bred into the United States. We recently had a number of shipments of NHPs from our Cambodian supplier denied clearance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has oversight of these permits/shipments stateside. We have operated under the belief that all shipments of NHPs that we received satisfied the material requirements, documentation and related processes and procedures of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) documentation and related processes and procedures, which guides the release of each import by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As we previously disclosed, on February 17, we received a grand jury subpoena from the DOJ relating to an investigation into the Cambodian NHP supply chain. We have been informed that this investigation relates specifically to shipments of NHPs received by Charles River. Charles River is committed to ensuring our operations are compliant with applicable U.S. and international laws and regulations; and we maintain a global supplier onboarding and oversight program incorporating risk-based due diligence, governance, auditing, and monitoring practices to help ensure the quality of our supplier relationships. We intend to fully cooperate with the U.S. government as part of their investigation, and we are confident that the DOJ will conclude that any concerns raised with respect to Charles River are without merit.
Charles River has voluntarily suspended planned, future shipments of Cambodian NHPs until such time we and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can develop and implement new procedures to reinforce confidence that the NHPs we import from Cambodia are purpose-bred. While these discussions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are ongoing, we have also agreed to continue to care for the Cambodia-sourced non-human primates from these shipments, in the United States.
The use of NHPs has been in high demand in recent years as our clients’ biologic drug pipelines continue to expand. NHPs are also necessary for the development of more than 10,000 drug products currently in preclinical development – including for cancer, diabetes, and a myriad of rare diseases. NHPs are also fundamental to foundational scientific research and understanding on how to prevent and treat emerging infectious diseases, including the successful development of every COVID-19 vaccine and the work of major academic medical centers. Before a drug can be evaluated in the clinic on humans, the FDA often requires testing in two animal species, including one non-rodent species, to ensure patient safety. Because of their close genetic, physiological, and behavioral similarity to humans, NHPs are often the only relevant animal models for critical translational research."
If PETA is granted custody of the 1,000 monkeys, they will end up on 175 acres in south Texas owned by Born Free USA.
Charles River Labs tells 7News it is actively seeking to work with federal authorities to develop and implement new procedures to reinforce confidence that the monkeys it imports from Cambodia are purpose-bred.