Co-founded International Primate Protection League
Primatologist Ardith Eudey, 80, cofounder with Shirley McGreal of the International Primate Protection League, instrumental in recent years in exposing monkey massacres and alleged trafficking in Malaysia, died in December 2015.
The daughter of prominent California watercolorist and engraver Dora Higgins Eudey (1909-2006) and her husband Henry Eudey (1909-1989), Ardith Eudey nominally shared her parents’ home in Uplands, California for most of her adult life, while holding a variety of academic appointments and affiliations and traveling extensively throughout the world to do primate advocacy and research.
Holding a Ph.D. in biological anthropology, Eudey recalled in 2008 that “For 14 years I taught courses and seminars on, or including, primate behavior at both the college and university level before focusing my professional activities on the conservation of primates in Asia.”
Serving as longtime chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group (Asian Section), Ardith Eudey did business from her parents’ address in Uplands, but was likely to turn up almost anywhere that wild monkeys dwell, especially any of the many species of macaque.
Recalled McGreal on Facebook, “Ardith was studying the behavior of free-living stumptail macaques in the Huay Kha Khaeng Sanctuary [of Thailand] when I met her in the 1970s. I had become interested in macaques,” while stationed in Thailand as the wife of a U.S. diplomat, “and met Ardith at a nature club meeting in Bangkok. We became friends in 1972. Every time she came out of the forest, where working conditions were really tough, she would come and stay at my home in Bangkok. My bedroom was the only air-conditioned room in my house and Ardith would sleep on a mattress on the floor.”
Formation of IPPL
Wrote Eudey in 2008, “In 1973, I began an ongoing field study of the ecological adaptations of sympatric species of macaque monkeys (Macaca spp.) in western Thailand.” This led Eudey to discovering the enormous traffic in wild-caught macaques to laboratory breeding colonies.
McGreal and Eudey formed the International Primate Protection League after discovering that none of the other international animal advocacy organizations existing as of 1973 had the reach, the resources, or the interest to effectively address the macaque traffic for laboratory supply.
Wrote McGreal, “I looked hard for a group that would work to help the primates’ cause and thought one was surely needed. So we decided to start one. We had to incorporate in California as that was where Ardith lived. Ardith did all the arduous legwork, such as collecting signatures for the state and federal incorporation papers. Without her determination there might have been no IPPL.”
The International Primate Protection League first enjoyed campaign success after McGreal became acquainted with then-Indian prime minister Moraji Desai.
Recalled McGreal in 1995, “In 1977 IPPL amassed documents about the U.S. use or misuse of imported Indian rhesus monkey use in military experiments,” in violation of the terms of a 20-year-old export agreement.
McGreal and Eudey were far from the first to try to stop the export of macaques from India for use in biomedical experimentation. The National Humane Review, a publication of the American Humane Association, in July 1938 reported that a Miss Howard Rice, of Pune, had extensively documented the cruelty of the Indian monkey export trade, and was trying to rally political opposition to it both in India and in Britain; India was at the time a British colony.
But McGreal and Eudey were more effective. Moraji Desai had been elected prime minister in 1977.
“Desai was a lifelong vegetarian [in fact, a strict vegan] and animal lover,” McGreal knew. She appealed to him.
On December 3, 1977, Desai’s government barred monkey exports, effective on April 1, 1978. The introduction of the export ban was eased politically by the publication of an exposé in the March 26, 1978 edition of The Illustrated Weekly of India, by Nanditha Krishna, wife of longtime Blue Cross of India chief executive Chinny Krishna.
Nanditha Krishna explained that the monkey export ban was imposed “after it was discovered that the Pentagon used monkeys in military research to test the radiation effects of nuclear explosions.”
Said McGreal, “Desai saved a species and hundreds of thousands of individual animals from suffering and death in foreign laboratories. Powerful users exerted heavy pressure on Desai. He stood firm,” as have his successors.
“In an attempt at historical revisionism,” McGreal continued, “claims were made by U.S. scientists that the Indian ban resulted from conservation concerns and the dwindling numbers of rhesus macaques. IPPL contacted Desai, by then retired, for clarification. In a handwritten letter dated April 16, 1985, Desai stated, ‘You are quite correct in saying that I banned the export of monkeys on a humanitarian basis and not because the number was lessening. I believe in preventing cruelty to all living beings in any form.’”
Another of McGreal’s early collaborations with Eudey began, McGreal remembered, when they “learned that the University of California, where she was studying for her doctorate, had been importing smuggled gibbons via Canada to perform viral cancer research. We reported the lab to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and requested that it be prosecuted. Ardith did an affidavit attesting to her convincing findings. Sadly, the lab never was prosecuted. When the lab lost its federal funding, Ardith learned that one gibbon who the lab claimed was mentally retarded was going to be killed. She tipped us off. We intervened on his behalf. He was sent to IPPL and still lives with us. His name is Arun Rangsi.”
Declared Eudey, “The ideal solution to conserving gibbons is to protect their natural habitat and make it possible for them to continue in the wild,” but for Arun Rangsi life at IPPL was the best that could be arranged.
“Speciosa & Thibetana”
Eudey, meanwhile, “continued her studies in Thailand and completed her doctorate,” McGreal remembered. “She was an outstanding field worker and conservationist, working for decades with the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. She became a crusader for macaques. She even gave her beloved cats the names of monkey species such as ‘Speciosa’ and ‘Thibetana.’ At the time of her death she was working to get crab-eating macaques upgraded to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”
Eudey late in life was particularly concerned about the rapidly increasing frequency of conflict between humans and macaques in Asian cities where sterilization programs have drastically reduced the numbers of street dogs, but haphazard sanitation and lack of regular refuse removal leaves abundant food available to other intelligent, adaptable scavenger species––especially macaques and feral cats.
“Many people are coming into contact with macaques for the first time and need to be educated on the proper ways to minimize interaction,” Eudey emphasized in public statements.
Eudey praised Hong Kong and Singapore for undertaking “positive educational and control programs,” with the control aspect centering on vasectomizing male macaques and spaying females, but was frustrated by the continuing reliance in Malaysia on killing macaques.
Ironically, the Malaysian macaque culling accelerated after Mohammed Khan Momin Khan, former director of the Malaysian wildlife agency Perhiltan, at request of IPPL banned the export of macaques for laboratory use in 1984.
“There was a time when killing 10 long-tailed macaques created hell from the public for the department. Now 150,000 are killed and there is hardly the protest of long ago. What is happening to us? Are we less caring now, and why?” Khan posted in 2013 to the International Primate Protection League page on Facebook.
As Khan recalled, Malaysians vocally objected in June 2001 after Perhilitan staff left monkeys caught in box traps out in the sun for hours, and again in September 2001, after soldiers and staff shot 97 monkeys and 15 squirrels in a contest held ostensibly to protect palm fruit and banana plantations.
Malaysia killed 87,900 urban-dwelling macaques in 2011, however, and 97,200 in 2012, all in near-silence.
Monkeys are killed, Eudey told Los Angeles Times reporter Emily Alpert, because the Malaysian government “thinks it is easier than teaching people how to properly lock their houses and protect fruit trees.”
Tolerance of urban macaques significantly receded after an October 2010 incident in which a macaque swung through an open window in the city of Seremban, grabbed a four-day-old baby girl, carried her to the roof of the house, bit her on the head, ears, neck and face, and then dropped her to her death in front of her screaming mother.
Bananas & rice
“More common problems are much less grave,” wrote Alpert. “Macaques root through garbage bins and scatter trash, and they damage rooftops and lampposts, according to one recent study done near Kuala Selangor Nature Park. Resident Salima Ibrahim said that if she cracked open a window on an especially hot day in Kuala Lumpur, monkeys would come in and grab bananas and feast on rice left in the cooker.”
Eudey’s efforts to stop the Malaysian macaque killings brought some results when in March 2013 natural resources and environment minister Douglas Uggah “ordered an immediate investigation by a team from his ministry into the alleged inhumane massacre of wild monkeys by its contractors,” reported Michelle Chun of the Sun Daily.
In effect, however, Uggah only ordered the Malaysian federal wildlife agency, Perhilitan, to investigate itself.
“Should not have been exterminated”
“The primates should not have been exterminated, as they were not diseased,” medical doctor and Malay Chinese Association complaint bureau deputy chief Yee Kok Wah told R.S.N. Murali of the Star of Malaysia, recommending that a sanctuary should be established to which problem monkeys could be relocated.
“They will not pose a danger to humans if they are relocated to the jungle,” Yee Kok Wah told The Star, mentioning reports that wild macaques from Malaysia had ended up in laboratories despite the international regulations that should have protected them.
Responded Uggah, in a prepared statement, “We are only culling the problematic population in urban and suburban areas, not macaques who live in protected forests.”
IUCN rejected Eudey’s concern
Contrary to Eudey’s recommendation, “The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species 2012 categorized the long-tailed macaques as a species of least concern,” Uggah continued. “This department received 40,407 complaints about human/macaque conflict from 2007 to 2012, including 10,232 in 2008, before the culling started, but only 3,235 in 2012.”
Responded McGreal, “In my 40 years of working for primate protection, I never saw anything as shocking as this—or a better-kept secret. The Malaysian public had no clue what was going on and was not involved in the decision-making process. The plan was devised and implemented with almost no public knowledge in Malaysia and no hearings. The killing started in 2011,” and is expected to continue through 2016, targeting especially long-tailed macaques, while apparently exempting the less numerous pigtailed macaques.
Said S.M. Mohd Idris, president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Malaysian Friends of the Earth), “Culling is not the final answer to the monkey problem,” speaking from the perspective of having had monkeys tearing pieces of roofing off of his own house.
“Animals who are successful in reproduction and adaptive to human environments will quickly repopulate after culling,” Idris explained. “Other monkeys will fill the niche left empty. The urban environment facilitates their feeding and reproduction potential by increasing group sizes and decreasing their need to forage and seek wild habitat. Unintentionally, humans contribute to the problem by leaving garbage for monkeys to raid.”
Eudey, meanwhile, warned that the Malaysian government appeared to be attempting to use public outrage over culling macaques “to create an export market,” as a purportedly non-lethal alternative.
Exports to labs
The U.S. permits imports only of captive-bred macaques, who have not been potentially exposed to any of the nearly 100 diseases endemic among wild macaques which may be fatal to humans. China, however, allows imports of wild-caught macaques, and some wildlife trade investigators believe wild-macaques from other Asian nations are re-documented in China as “captive-bred” before being sold to U.S. buyers.
Then-Malaysian natural resources and environment minister Azmi Khalid in September 2007 admitted that plans were proceeding to export macaques captured in cities to laboratories and Chinese live markets.
Hilary Chew and S.S. Yogi of the Star of Malaysia reported that “At least one company has submitted a business plan to the ministry proposing an export volume of between 12,000 and 20,000 monkeys per year. The plan lists the likely buyers as two labs and one breeding center in China,” Chew and Yogi wrote. “One of the labs is the Kunming Primate Research Centre, set up in 2005 as a research base for experiments against infectious diseases and bio-terrorism.”
Khalid on February 2, 2008 told the New Straits Times that the exports would not occur, but an informant told the Earth Journalism Network that wild-caught macaques from Malaysia were nonetheless “anesthetized, bound, and gagged in order to keep them silent,” and flown in containers labeled “vegetables” to nations including Vietnam for resale to China.
Malacca state chief minister Mohamad Ali Rustam in late 2010 backed a plan for the Indian firm Vivo Bio Tech to build a primate research laboratory in Malaysia, to use locally caught macaques.
Succeeding Khalid as natural resources and environment minister, Uggah in January 2011 said that Perhilitan was considering relocating problematic monkeys to an offshore island. The only islands currently believed to be involved in the Malaysian monkey control program, however, even tangentially, are the artificial islands used in China and the U.S. for captive monkey breeding.