Primate Dealer Pleads Guilty to a Felony

by Shirley McGreal - International Primate Protection League

In May 1997 the International Primate Protection League (IPPL) received a message from someone who had just seen dozens of crated monkeys, including tiny babies, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The animals had been shipped from Indonesia. U.S. wildlife regulations ban shipment of unweaned infant animals unless they are traveling "for needed medical treatment" and are "accompanied at all times and completely accessible to a veterinary attendant."

Upon further investigation IPPL learned that there had been a series of shipments totaling over 1,000 crab-eating macaques. They were shipped in batches of around 200 to LABS, Inc. a laboratory primate dealer. Shipping rosters showed that monkeys as young as 3-5 weeks old had been shipped, as well as pregnant monkeys.

Many older monkeys, aged 13-16, had been shipped too. In 1994 Indonesia banned export of wild-caught monkeys to protect wild populations. Claims that hundreds of older monkeys were captive-born were suspect, since Inquatex, the exporter, had only started breeding monkeys a few years earlier. Case documents show that pay-offs were made to Indonesian Government officials to procure export documents.

Primate friends deluged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with letters calling for an investigation. In April 2002, LABS and its president David Taub were indicted on eight felony and four misdemeanor charges. The government alleged that the shipments contained wild-caught macaques in violation of Indonesian law, and that documents fraudulently represented that the shipments consisted only of captive-born macaques. The indictment alleged that three shipments illegally contained nursing mothers and unweaned young. Two senior LABS officials were charged with a misdemeanor.

The case was assigned to Judge Ruben Castillo. A "plea bargain" has just been announced under which LABS would plead guilty to one felony. Charges against all individual defendants would be dropped. If the judge agrees, LABS will receive two years probation and pay a fine of $500,000, with assets totaling $64,675 forfeited. Sentencing is scheduled for November 16.

Ask for Justice for the Baby Monkeys. Please ask U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo to levy the toughest penalties possible in Case No. 02-CR-312 (United States versus Labs Va. Inc. et. al.) and to question the dropping of charges against the individual defendants. Respectful letters should be mailed to:

The Honorable Ruben Castillo
U.S. District Judge
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Federal Building
219 South Dearborn Street
Fifth Floor
Chicago, IL 60604