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Why KQ stopped flying monkeys to US labs

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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph told Business Daily Monday that the airline will cease transporting the animals used in scientific research as soon as the contract expires at the end of February.
  • KQ’s announcement came after a truck transporting the long-tailed macaque monkeys bred in a farm in Mauritius crashed last week in Danville, Pennsylvania, attracting criticism from animal rights activists in the US.

National carrier Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will stop transporting monkeys from the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius to the United States for laboratory experiments after the contract expires in February.

Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph confirmed to the Business Daily Monday that the airline will cease transporting the primates and other wild animals used in scientific research as soon as the contract expires at the end of February.

KQ’s announcement came after a truck transporting the long-tailed macaque monkeys bred in a farm in Mauritius crashed last week in Danville, Pennsylvania, attracting criticism from animal rights activists in the United States.

“We will not renew the contract that expires at the end of February,” Mr Joseph told Business Daily in an interview.

Four monkeys escaped following the collision between a truck and a pick-up prompting residents to join the local police in their search in nearby forests.

The shipment was heading to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved quarantine facility and laboratory in Florida after arriving at New York's Kennedy Airport from Mauritius aboard a KQ plane, US police said.

The location of the quarantine facility and the type of research for which the monkeys were destined were not clear, but the cynomolgus monkeys also known as the long-tailed or crab-eating macaque, are often used in medical studies.

The US Department of Agriculture has opened an investigation into the incident amid protests from animal rights activists.

The monkeys have been in high demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic prompting larger investments in breeding the animals at American primate research facilities.

US animal rights lobby PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) welcomed KQ’s decision not to ship the animals from next month in a separate statement sent to the Business Daily newsroom.

“PETA would like to thank Mr (Allan) Kilavuka (KQ CEO) and Mr Joseph (KQ chairman) for their decision to do away with this cruel, heinous business at Kenya Airways,” said PETA senior Vice-President Jason Baker.

“Monkeys belong in the wild, not in laboratories, where their most basic needs, including home, family, and community, are better met."

Mr Baker said that the decision by KQ demonstrates the carrier's understanding of how using monkeys for research purposes poses higher risks to the possibility of emerging infectious diseases.

***Updated