The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries denies media reports that Cambodia has suspended export of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) to the US.
The denial followed reports that US-based biopharmaceutical firm INOTIV decided to no longer import the animals from Cambodia after the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida (USAO-SDFL) indicted employees of Vanny Bio Research (Cambodia), which is INOTIV’s main supplier of macaques.
Kry Masphal, director of the Wildlife and Biodiversity Department at the Forestry Administration (FA), was arrested last month in the US, with the USAO-SDFL alleging that he had conspired with the company to illegally import macaques – sometimes referred to in legal terms in the US as non-human primates (NHPs) – into the US between December 2017 and January 2022.
FA director-general Keo Omaliss was also indicted by the USAO-SDFL for his alleged involvement in the scheme.
Over the past two days, media reports on the development of the case stated that Cambodia had halted or suspended exports of macaques to the US, basing their reports on INOTIV’s December 12 statement about a conference call related to the delay of its release of financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended September 30 due to the issue.
“We have been informed that Cambodia has currently ceased any exports of NHPs, and therefore we are not currently importing any NHPs from Cambodia. We do not know when or if they intend to resume allowing shipments or when and if the US Fish and Wildlife Service will allow shipments,” INOTIV said in the statement.
Agriculture ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna denied the reported pause on exports of macaques.
“The ministry would like to clarify that we did not issue a decision to halt the export of crab-eating macaques to the US or other countries like media has reported,” she said.
According to INOTIV, its expected preliminary total revenues for this fiscal year is $547.7 million, with approximately $140 million from the sale of long-tailed macaques that it had imported from Cambodia.
Citing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 60 per cent of the macaques imported into the US were from Cambodia in the 12-month period ending September 30.
Regarding the arrest of Masphal and the charges leveled against FA chief Omaliss, the agriculture ministry has strongly denied all of the allegations, saying it would seek justice for the officials.
The ministry said in November that Cambodia strictly followed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Since 2005, it said the monkeys have been “farmed” in Cambodia and exported for pharmaceutical research to discover new medicines and vaccines, as well as to test cosmetic products.
They are not captured in the wilderness and smuggled out, but instead bred and raised in captivity under humane conditions that are hygienic and conform to international standards, while the breeding is done carefully to preserve their gene pool, according to the ministry.
Only the monkeys born and raised in captivity are exported, as is obligated by the CITES convention and applicable laws, it said.
Officials at the ministry said there are more than 150,000 macaques at the five farms operated by Vanny Bio Research, and that there is no need to falsify documents in order to bring wild monkeys to the US.