Mauritius invites primate research labs to set up shop

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Science  05 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6337, pp. 472-473
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6337.472

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The battle to end experiments on nonhuman primates has found its way to Mauritius, a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Last month, opposition members of the National Assembly challenged the government’s recent opening to macaque experimentation—and how it would police the welfare of animals used in such experiments. Mauritius is home to a large wild population of long-tailed macaques, which are valued in research in part because they are free of certain simian viruses. Five companies have established breeding colonies and export some 8000 animals annually to Western labs. In February, in an effort to boost the country’s profile as an incipient hub of biomedical research, the Mauritian government enacted regulations allowing companies and scientists to do macaque experiments on the island. Animal welfare groups led by London-based Cruelty Free International claim that the breeding companies are behind the move, and that they have reason to be: After a campaign by animal activists, Air France is now the only commercial airline that will deliver lab-bound macaques from Mauritius to Western countries.