Cambodian Primate Pipeline Draws More Scrutiny

In a February Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Charles River Laboratories (CRL) disclosed that the US Department of Justice and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating CRL’s conduct regarding several shipments of nonhuman primates (NHPs) from Cambodia and that CRL received a grand jury subpoena requesting “certain documents related to such investigation.” CRL added that the USFWS has “denied clearance to certain shipments” of NHPs the company received from Cambodia and that CRL has “voluntarily suspended planned future shipments” of NHPs from Cambodia until the company and the USFWS “can agree upon and implement additional procedures to reasonably ensure” that CRL’s NHPs from Cambodia come from breeding facilities and are not sourced illegally from the wild. 

This comes three months after a federal grand jury indicted Cambodian government officials and employees of Vanny Resources Holdings, Ltd. for an alleged conspiracy to smuggle thousands of wild-caught long-tailed macaques into the United States for research, passing them off as animals born in Vanny’s Cambodian breeding facilities. Over 2,000 of the NHPs apparently ended up at US facilities now owned by Inotiv and Worldwide Primates, the largest and third largest US importers of NHPs for research, respectively. Shortly thereafter, CRL (the #2 NHP importer) declared to the SEC that, while Cambodia was its primary source for NHP imports, it had no “direct supply contracts” with Vanny. This latest investigation, then, would seem to indicate another Cambodian NHP conduit is under intense scrutiny. 

Meanwhile, the National Association of Biomedical Research (NABR), an industry group that has long fought government oversight of animal research, is urging industry insiders to complain to federal legislators that the USFWS—in denying import permits for Cambodian NHPs—is creating a “disruption” to the “drug development pipeline.” Shady sources or no, NABR wants that spigot kept wide open. AWI hopes that the USFWS holds the line and takes all necessary steps to ensure that smuggled animals are not undergirding research and testing in this country.

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