Animal transport company JKL Secure Freight has been cited under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), after workers left an air shipment of 336 endangered monkeys crammed in tiny crates on the tarmac of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for at least 95 minutes in 87-degree heat.
It was so hot during the incident, which took place on July 16, that an employee had to take breaks while loading the shipment of long-tailed macaques, according to a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report.
Air shipment to Atlanta July 16
According to the report, the shipment of 336 macaques arrived on Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET518.
The animals were offloaded from the plane at 10:30 AM onto a pallet trailer and then completely loaded onto the ground transportation trailers by 12:05 PM without any shade provided, the USDA report stated.
It was the first time in several years that monkeys were flown into the Atlanta airport.
The USDA also cited the company for tilting, dragging, and dropping the crates as they were being loaded onto a truck, likely causing even more trauma for the monkeys trapped inside.
It is a requirement that any person handling a primary enclosure containing a nonhuman primate must use care and avoid excessively tilting or dragging their enclosures, which may cause physical harm or distress to the nonhuman primates.
The animals had been transported from the island nation of Mauritius, east of Africa, via Ethiopian Airlines.
Calls for airline to stop shipments
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked the Atlanta Police Department to investigate the ATL airport incident.
PETA has subsequently urged the Ethiopian carrier to stop shipments of monkeys for the purposes of laboratory experimentation.
“It’s outrageous that these terrified monkeys were flown halfway around the world, only to be tossed around like rag dolls and left to bake in the July sun,” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo.
“PETA is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop the importation of all monkeys for experimentation immediately.”
The transport company JKL has been cited for three violations of the Animal Welfare Act this year alone, including a violation in May for transporting 167 macaques cross-country without proper veterinary exams.
Apart from animal welfare issues, the importation of monkeys poses a grave and potentially fatal public health risk. Monkeys infected with tuberculosis—a highly infectious disease that’s readily transmitted to humans—have already been imported to North American labs from Mauritius.
In addition, monkeys air freighted from Cambodia have previously arrived infected with a bacterium so deadly that the U.S. classifies it as a bioterrorism agent, according to PETA.
Long-tailed macaques have been driven to the brink of extinction in part because people capture the animals in nature to be sold to the experimentation industry.
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