Mauritius under the spotlight for primate exports to overseas labs

PRIMATE SHIPMENTS TO OVERSEAS LABORATORIES SHOCK CONSERVATIONISTS

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Recent reports from Mauritius were far from being a pleasure, pun fully intended, when the stark news became known that the island exports about 10.000 primates a year to laboratories in the UK, the US and other parts of Europe, perhaps even beyond, where the animals are subjected to a range of tests often leading to a painful death.

Animal testing, a touchy subject at best and hugely controversial at worst, has come into the cross hairs of global conservationists trying to prevent primates, mankind’s closest relative in nature, to be captured and shipped and increasingly militant lobby groups are known to have raided labs and holding facilities for such animals to free them from the torture they otherwise undergo.

For Mauritius it is a touchy subject too though, as on one side the island tries to promote itself as a desirable Indian Ocean island destination, with intact beaches and clean ocean waters, so it is understandable that the subject is being hushed up if not buried outright. The local media are keeping off the subject it seems to prevent damage to the already under strain tourism industry and avoid open conflict with the politically influential and powerful owners of the breeding farms.

BUAV (www.buav.org/) has now taken up the cause and put up a campaign to end the shipments, the second largest in the world by the way, bringing the spotlight to Mauritius’ government sanction of the deplorable practice purely for monetary reasons. Tourism sources have shown a mixed reaction, aware of the appalling situation but also afraid that tourism might take a further hit, should the country be exposed for being a willing provider of farmed primates for testing. One source more closely affiliated to ‘official Mauritius’, while expressing knowledge of the situation, tried to have the story squashed while one regular source from within the tourism industry agreed that the exports were a disgrace for the island and a stain on its green credentials while at the same time worried over the impact of the story just a few days ahead of the start of WTM 2012 in London.

Tourism stakeholders are said to be working on proposals to create an alternative revenue stream by looking at raised airport taxes to make up for the loss of business, which while making individual holidays for visitors more expensive, could in turn promote ‘abstention’ by breeding farm owners and their backers in government. That said, trappers of primates in East Africa, who did thriving business in the trade decades ago, also had to let go of this sordid business when governments, under pressure from the international community, the global media and green pressure groups were compelled to rethink and retool at the time.

Time to show flag and act on principle rather than looking at the financial side only and suppress and hide what clearly in today’s world is no longer acceptable.

Thanks to VisitMauritius.com.au for the additional information provided, understandably with a heavy heart as it might after all impact on their own business – so kudos galore for standing up and be counted.

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