World famous primatologist, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace and distinguished field biologist and conservationist Ian Redmond OBE, have joined the UK animal protection organization the BUAV to raise concerns about the sad plight of wild-caught baboons used in research at the Institute of Primate Research in Kenya.
An investigation carried out by the BUAV in Kenya uncovered the capture and captivity of wild baboons held at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi under conditions which seriously compromised their welfare and breached international guidelines – including those of the European Directive and the International Primatological Society – before being subjected to disturbing experiments by visiting researchers from the USA and Europe. Some of the baboons were housed on their own in small barren metal cages with no enrichment. Legislation in Kenya relating to animal experiments is outdated and hopelessly inadequate.
“I have watched the video that shows, in graphic detail, the conditions endured by some of the baboons at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi,” said Jane Goodall. "I was shocked and deeply distressed to see these intelligent primates – we have been studying them at Gombe National Park since 1966 – being kept in the conditions depicted in your film. These cages are very far removed from the conditions dictated by today’s animal welfare guidelines. In most countries these conditions would not be tolerated and those responsible would be forced to clean up their act.
“During an 18 month investigation, ordered by the Director of the National Institutes of Health in the USA, a team of experts found that NOT ONE EXPERIMENT being carried out on the Institute’s chimpanzees was beneficial to human health. And the Director ordered almost all of the more than 300 chimpanzees to be retired to sanctuaries. And chimpanzees are far closer to humans than baboons. So that a similar investigation might well reveal similar results.
“Any caring and compassionate person will feel as angry and sad as I do after viewing the video. In my professional opinion the facility – at least as depicted in the video – should be closed down.”
Field biologist and conservationist, Ian Redmond OBE, added: “Wildlife tourism is one of the mainstays of the Kenyan economy, and many Kenyans dedicate their life to protecting wild animals. They – and the millions of tourists with happy memories of watching the fascinating behaviour of baboon family life – will be shocked to hear that these intelligent social animals are being abused in a biomedical laboratory in Kenya. Baboons and other primates have a role to play in Africa’s ecosystems (which benefit us all) and have no place in out-dated research methods like this in the 21st century. I urge the Kenya Government to end such invasive experiments before outraged tourists vote with their feet.”
Experiments carried out on wild baboons at the Institute Primate Research was often highly invasive, caused immense suffering and was even fatal. It included invasive brain surgery; stitching the wombs of female baboons shut so that their menstrual blood accumulates over many weeks into a large abdominal mass in an attempt to trigger painful endometriosis; infecting baboons with malarial parasites (in some experiments, infection was allowed to run its full course until all the baboons died).
In December 2013, Newcastle University announced that it would end its involvement in controversial research on wild-caught baboons at the Institute of Primate Research, after the BUAV investigation uncovered researchers bypassing UK law (which banned the use of wild-caught primates in research in 1995) to travel to Kenya. This was also found to be a breach of guidance by UK funding bodies which requires UK researchers to maintain UK welfare standards when carrying out experiments abroad.
The BUAV is calling on the Kenyan government to take a stand and dissociate itself from the cruelties of the wild-caught trade by introducing a ban on the capture and use of wild primates for research.