Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Primate trade exposed in Mauritius

Posted: 6 February 2014. Updated: 22 May 2014

An investigation by ADI USA has revealed the hidden suffering of primates bred for research on the tropical Indian Ocean island of Mauritius – one of the biggest suppliers of laboratory monkeys in the world, sending thousands to miserable deaths in the USA and worldwide.

Our undercover team gained access to this secret world at one of the key breeding facilities – Biodia – and we recorded horrific scenes:

  • Baby monkeys torn from their screaming mothers to be tattooed.
  • Pregnant monkeys manhandled and pinned down in terrifying routine procedures
  • Screaming monkeys being swung by their tails

Watch video clips from our investigation

If you want us to keep exposing the truth and campaigning to end this suffering DONATE NOW and then read on to find out how you can help end the suffering. We need your help to help them!


Monkeys snatched from the wild
Biodia continues to take monkeys from the wild, terrifying the animals and destroying family groups. Some wild monkeys are sold for vivisection, others will be used to restock their breeding factory farms.

Barren cages
Instead of the forest these animals live in cages – breeding cages, then smaller weaning cages, export cages and finally transport cages. In the larger concrete floored cages, crowded with monkeys, terror spreads quickly when the workers come to catch monkeys. Other monkeys were filmed in isolation in small cages barely larger than themselves. Most have little, if any, enrichment; sadly these are the conditions many will endure in the laboratory too.

Brutal and frightening handling
Monkeys are routinely captured by grabbing and swinging the animals back and forth by their tails, and then restraining them by pinning their arms behind their backs. Nets are also used, and the stress can cause monkeys to suffer diarrhea, rectal prolapse and lacerations. Frightening and painful procedures included monkeys being pinned down by several workers to have blood sampled and repeated testing for tuberculosis which involves the animals being injected into the upper eyelid. As tiny babies the fully conscious monkeys are tattooed with the numbers used to identify them as they are sold around the world for research.

Babies torn from mothers
In one especially harrowing sequence filmed by our investigators a tiny infant monkey is torn from his screaming mother’s arms and then pinned down and tattooed. The baby monkeys are routinely taken from their mothers and are weaned at 10-12 months old, two months earlier than they would naturally be. Premature weaning can cause abnormal behaviors in later life and compromise the health of the individual – but these animals are not destined for a long life they are destined for laboratory experiments.

Journey of death

Once sold the monkeys are packed into small traveling crates and shipped all over the world to be experimented on, including the USA. It is probably the last time they will see daylight – a typical, direct flight to the USA will take 12 hours, flights with transfers longer – before their crate is loaded into a vehicle and driven to the final destination. There, at the laboratory, the crate is finally opened.

During a previous ADI investigation our field officer saw monkeys arriving at Huntingdon Life Sciences in the UK after being shipped from Vietnam: “The Monkeys arrived at HLS after midnight, in individual compartments in rectangular wooden crates with a handle at each end. The individual monkey compartments did not allow the animals to stand upright. On arrival most monkeys were frightened and cowered at the back of the box.”

A review of studies in the journal Laboratory Animal noted that the cynomolgus (long-tailed) macaque ”is the type which most frequently has to undergo transportation, yet it is possibly the macaque species least able to respond satisfactorily to it.”

Many airlines have taken an ethical stance concerning the transportation of primates for research, following opposition from animal protection groups and the public. However a few airlines continue to play a fundamental role in the trade, between them transporting thousands of primates each year across the globe. One of the major airlines involved in the trade is Air France which, according to a senior Biodia staff member, ”can take a pallet of 80 animals” and continues to fly out monkeys from Mauritius.

What their fate will be

The monkeys at the Biodia facility are already suffering but the worst is yet to come. Individuals will be flown to all corners of the globe on demand to be used in painful experiments. The most recent figures reveal that 2,842 monkeys from Mauritius – the second largest supplier after China – were imported into the USA for experiments in 2013, with hundreds being supplied by Biodia.

Imported monkeys are either sent directly to laboratories for cruel experiments, or used to breed babies who will end up in laboratories. Our investigation has revealed that Biodia’s trading partner in the USA, Prelabs, has plans to “establish the first Mauritius breeding colony” in Labelle, Florida.

In the laboratory, these intelligent and gentle animals will be subjected to procedures such as:

Safety testing where monkeys are often physically restrained in chairs – something so stressful for them it can cause rectal prolapse – and then forced to inhale, or have substances pumped directly into their stomachs. Effects of the test substance can manifest a range of debilitating symptoms, including vomiting, blocked lungs, collapse, self-mutilation and death, as witnessed during our investigation of Huntington Life Sciences in the UK.

In neurology tests monkeys may have bolts and electrodes permanently implanted into their heads and endure being immobilised during procedures to permanent head holders being attached which will restrain their heads so that electrodes can be inserted into their brains, to record brain activity. For experiments, animals may be deprived of food and water then restrained by their metal headpiece for hours at a time. This was the fate of Elisa at the Institute of Neurology in the UK.

Legal protection

Regulations on monkey experiments in the USA are poor and as other nations move away from these cruel tests, the USA continues to cling onto to these crude, outdated methods instead of advanced technology.

In the European Union, made up from 28 countries, the use of apes and wild caught monkeys has ended, placed restrictions on monkey experiments and is phasing out the trade in monkeys born to wild caught parents

In stark contrast with such developments elsewhere in the world, over 70,000 monkeys are used in cruel experiments in the USA, with 20,000 monkeys being imported into the country for companies such as Covance, Charles River and Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories.

Help end the suffering!

Please send a donation today – to help ensure we can keep exposing the suffering and campaigning for change. Painstaking investigations like this to secure footage inside these secret facilities are difficult and expensive – but we need to be there to tell the story for the animals.

Contact Air France KLM to tell them that you will be flying with other airlines until they pledge to stop transporting primates for research.

Contact your Congressional representatives via the US House of Representatives Directory and the US Senate’s List of Senators and urge them to press for and support an end to the import of monkeys for experiments or breeding and a phase-out of the use of monkeys in research.

© Animal Defenders International 2019