There are worrying shortcomings in the UK’s oversight of long-tailed macaque imports, a species that is extensively exploited in trade to satisfy the insatiable demand from laboratories for test subjects.

Long-tailed macaques are the most heavily exploited mammals on Earth among species protected in global trade, in terms of sales of live individuals, according to figures from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

Overall, exporting countries reported over a million long-tailed macaque trades between 2016 to 2021. These included sales of their body parts and specimens, such as blood and tissue, as well as live individuals. 


For years, concerns have circulated over whether trade in the species is sustainable. At a meeting in June 2023, CITES, which regulates international trade in the primate and many other wild species, agreed to review the trade from some exporter countries due to this.

However, the UK’s trade records, along with government responses to queries about imports, suggest that countries buying the primates also require scrutiny. They point to a lack of rigorous checks and balances at the receiving end of the long-tailed macaque supply chain.

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