Animal advocate, teacher, conservationist, investigative journalist, and beloved friend to primates, both human and nonhuman
SUMMERVILLE, South Carolina––“With heavy hearts, we are informing Shirley’s many friends that she died Saturday morning,” the International Primate Protection League posted to founder Shirley McGreal’s Facebook page on November 21, 2021.
McGreal, 87, “had been in declining health for some time,” the announcement continued, “but with her typical resilience, she would rally. Finally, it was not to be. Our hearts are broken, and we expect many of yours will be as well.
“An indelible mark around the world”
“We all know what an extraordinary human being Shirley was,” the brief announcement finished. “Her compassion and determination to save and protect primates for almost 50 years has left an indelible mark around the world.”
Born Shirley Pollitt in Cheshire, England in 1934, 20 minutes after her twin sister Jean, also a renowned and accomplished animal advocate, Shirley McGreal in 1955 earned her first of three academic degrees from the Royal Holloway & Bedford New College, University of London, having studied French and Latin.
Shirley was for decades the quieter of the twins, whose introduction to activism came initially through her slightly elder sister.
Simultaneous with Shirley’s graduation, “Jean graduated from the renowned London School of Economics in 1955,” Jean’s husband Peter Martin remembered after Jean’s death on August 25, 2009.
Jean Martin ended pound use of gas chambers in Nanaimo
Peter and Jean Martin “met as students working at a holiday resort in 1955. She was my wife, partner and companion for 52 years,” Peter Martin continued.
Emigrating to Canada, Peter and Jean Martin both taught school in Ontario for more than 25 years, eventually retiring to Nanaimo, British Columbia.
“Jean championed many causes, starting back in the 1950s with the ‘ban the atomic bomb’ campaign,” Peter Martin recalled. “More recently, she was on CBC Marketplace protesting high veterinary drug prices. This past spring (2009) she was able to persuade the Nanaimo City Council to ban the cruel use of gas boxes to kill cats at the pound.”
Despite wide geographic separation, Jean and Shirley remained close. Jean served on the International Primate Protection League board of directors from the inception of the organization, proofread every edition of the IPPL magazine until her death, and Peter Martin testified that, “They spoke on the phone three times every day!”
Shirley followed Jean to North America. Doing post-graduate studies in French at the University of Illinois, Shirley met and became engaged to engineering graduate student John McGreal, one year her elder. Both joined a 20-member Humanist Club led by biology professor Leo F. Koch (1916-1982). Koch agreed to be ringbearer at the McGreals’ civil ceremony wedding, set for Saturday, April 9, 1960.
Earlier that week, though, all hell broke loose.
Recounts the University of Illinois “Student Life & Cultural Archives” web site, “Koch entered into a campus debate on human sexuality by writing a letter which was published in the Daily Illini. In it, Koch defended premarital sex and trial marriages among mature adults. The resulting storm over the letter led to Koch’s suspension and eventual firing by university President David Dodds Henry, who called the letter “offensive and repugnant.”
“Despite protests from groups arguing for academic freedom of speech, the board of trustees upheld Koch’s dismissal. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to intervene.”
Koch was fired on April 7, 1960. The newly married McGreals emerged from their wedding ceremony two days later to find themselves and Koch surrounded by news media and a chanting, placard-waving crowd of 1,500 pro-Koch demonstrators, United Press International reported.
The story went global.
Koch went on to found the Sexual Freedom League in 1963.
The McGreals, together until Shirley’s death, moved on to Cincinnati, where Shirley in 1968 completed a degree in education.
John McGreal took a job with the United Nations that circa 1970 sent the McGreals first to Thailand for three years and then to India for four years.
Ardith Eudey, Ph.D., longtime chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group (Asian Section), “was studying the behavior of free-living stumptail macaques in the Huay Kha Khaeng Sanctuary when I met her in 1972 at a nature club meeting in Bangkok,” Shirley McGreal remembered after Eudey’s death in December 2015.
“I had become interested in macaques,” Shirley McGreal continued. “We became friends. 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.”
Eudey and Shirley McGreal together discovered an enormous traffic in wild-caught macaques to laboratory breeding colonies.
Shirley McGreal and Eudey formed the International Primate Protection League after learning 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 Shirley 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,” at her parents’ home in Uplands.
“Ardith did all the arduous legwork,” Shirley McGreal recalled, “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 Shirley McGreal became acquainted with then-Indian prime minister Moraji Desai.
Recalled Shirley 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.
Shirley 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 Shirley 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, the Desai 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 Chinny Krishna, chief executive of the Blue Cross of India since 1964.
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.”
“In an attempt at historical revisionism,” Shirley McGreal said, “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.’”
Bangladesh & Christian Barnard
The International Primate Protection League followed essentially the same script in 1979 to persuade Bangladesh to cancel a plan to export more than 70,000 macaques to the U.S. for use in military radiation experiments.
Another early success, after South African surgeon Christian Barnard killed a chimpanzee during heart transplant research, was a global protest campaign that resulted in a second chimpanzee who had been slated for death in a heart transplantation experiment being instead removed from the laboratory and sent to a zoo.
The International Primate Protection League was not founded to do hands-on rescue, but soon became involved in hands-on work as well as advocacy.
Shirley McGreal’s first rescued gibbon may have been Tong.
Recounted Shubhobroto Ghosh, wildlife projects manager for World Animal Protection, India, “In 1974 Tong was purchased as a baby in Vietnam by a G.I. who took her to Thailand, but was caught at the airport trying to take her back to the U.S. and left her with servants.”
Rescued otters too
Shirley McGreal acquired her first two rescued Asian clawed otters about a year later, wrote Venice, Florida, Gondolier news editor Tony Briggs in 1977.
The two otters were “slowly dying of starvation, dehydration, and neglect, waiting in vain on a hot runway in Bangkok for the person who shipped them to Paris to come pick them up,” Briggs wrote. “The animals had been illegally exported, so customs in Paris sent them back to their point of origin.”
Shirley McGreal, then a teacher, “heard from some of her students” about the otters, Briggs said.
“Unable to save the creatures through normal channels,” Briggs explained, Shirley McGreal “finally asked the students to steal the otters to save them from sure death.”
Shirley McGreal then nursed the otters back to health, and took them to Venice, Florida legally when John McGreal changed jobs.
The McGreals relocated to Summerville, South Carolina, their home ever since, about a year later, adding facilities for the gibbons and otters and then rebuilding and expanding them several times.
Much of the rebuilding was occasioned by Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, and Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.
Dorian did the least damage, but brought a close call for John McGreal, who had just stepped out of his pickup truck while making his rounds of the gibbon cages when a tree crashed down on the truck roof.
Colin Groves, of Canberra, Australia, called “The Ultimate Classifier” by the Society of Conservation Biology, joined the International Primate Protection League advisory board in 1975.
“I met some students at a nature club meeting,” Shirley McGreal recalled, “and asked them to ask if they would like to work as student observers for the summer at the Bangkok airport.”
The observation project was funded by Katherine Buri,” who had helped to form IPPL, along with Christine Stevens of the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fauna Preservation Society, the New York Zoological Society, and the International Society for the Protection of Animals, later known as the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and now called World Animal Protection.
Project Bangkok Airport
“Project Bangkok Airport began on March 31, 1975, and continued until June 6, 1975,” McGreal remembered. “Teams of students from Chulalongkorn, Mahidol, and Kasetsart Universities recorded over 100,000 animals leaving Thailand and logged each shipment for compliance with animal shipping standards established by the International Air Transport Association,” finding frequent gross violations.
“Around that time,” Shirley McGreal continued, “Groves was visiting Bangkok. I set up an evening party for him to meet the students. They all brought along their reports, and Colin had individual meetings with each of them, asking about specific things he noticed and giving them all quality time.”
Thereafter, Shirley McGreal remembered, “Over the years when I needed an identification of a primate caught in trade, I always sent the pictures to Colin and got a prompt response,” including on occasion when ANIMALS 24-7 asked McGreal for help identifying species.
Groves remained a part of the International Primate Protection League team until his death on November 30, 2017.
Stopped gibbon study
“Ardith was also very interested in gibbons,” Shirley McGreal recalled after Eudey’s death, “and learned that the University of California, where she was studying for her doctorate, had been importing smuggled white-handed gibbons via Canada to perform viral cancer experiments that caused them great suffering and death.
“We reported the lab to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and requested that it be prosecuted,” McGreal continued. “Ardith did an affidavit attesting to her convincing findings,” supported by Colin Groves, “but no criminal case ensued.”
However, Groves’ information in 1981 “led to the suspension of the National Cancer Institute grant funding the experiments, as the virus under study had never been found in humans,” Shirley McGreal said.
Then, however, “Fifty five gibbons needed homes,” Shirley McGreal narrated. “Ardith got a tipoff that HL-98,” as a young gibbon named Arun Rangsi was then called, “might be killed, as he was said to be ‘metabolically abnormal’ and ‘mentally retarded.’”
“But he survived. IPPL stepped in. Our Thai friend Katie Buri asked the monks at the Wat Arun temple in Bangkok to select a name for him and they chose ‘Arun Rangsi,’ which means ‘The Rising Sun of Dawn.’ Katie sent funds for his care,” Shirley McGreal remembered.
“We notified the lab director of this offer and got a reply saying, ‘Rather than spend the money on this ridiculous adoption, I’ll spend it on his one-way ticket to you!’”
Arun Rangsi lived at the International Primate Protection League sanctuary in Summerville, South Carolina, until his death in December 2015.
Shirley McGreal never meant for any of the gibbons in her care to breed. Arun Rangsi was vasectomized, as were the other males, but as often happens among nonhuman primates, the first vasectomy failed and had to be repeated.
Arun Rangsi found a devoted mate in Shanti, a white-handed gibbon who came from the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), a New York University facility formerly located in Sterling Forest, New York.
Together they produced at least one baby, and Arun Rangsi and Shanti both proved themselves to be devoted parents.
Founded in 1965 by former Polish resistance fighter Jan-Moor Jankowski (1924-2005), LEMSIP “used mainly chimpanzees and macaques, but also had a small group of gibbons,” Shirley McGreal recalled.
In 1982 the entire LEMSIP gibbon colony was retired to the International Primate Protection League sanctuary, the only U.S. sanctuary specializing in gibbons. As many as 34 gibbons at a time have lived at IPPL; the sanctuary currently cares for 30.
Accepting the LEMSIP gibbons was a prelude to a landmark legal case that originated the next year, when Moor-Jankowski as founding editor of the International Journal of Primatology published a letter-to-the-editor from Shirley McGreal criticizing the Austrian pharmaceutical firm Immuno AG for planning to capture wild chimpanzees.
Immuno AG responded by suing both McGreal and Moor-Jankowski for libel.
The McGreals’ home insurer settled the case against her out of court, against her opposition, but Moor-Jankowski spent $2 million of his own money to win rulings from the New York State Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court which together won greater protection for authors and publishers of letters to the editors of periodicals.
Moor-Jankowski’s defense of Shirley McGreal made him few friends among fellow animal researchers, and made him a marked man at New York University, where he clashed with the administration over funding for improved caging.
On August 9, 1995, one day after the USDA confirmed to New York University officials that Jankowski had reported bad conditions at another NYU lab, leading to NYU being charged with 378 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, NYU dismissed Moor-Jankowski, marked LEMSIP for closure, and began arranging for the 225 chimpanzees and 200 monkeys at the LEMSIP facility to be transferred to the Coulston Foundation, in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
LEMSIP veterinarian James Mahoney, however, with Shirley McGreal’s help, managed to transfer 109 chimpanzees and more than 100 monkeys to various sanctuaries.
When the Coulston Foundation declared bankruptcy in 2003, the late Save The Chimps founder Carole Noon bought the Coulston facilities, with the aid of $3.7 million from the Arcus Foundation, and acquired 266 animals, mostly chimps, including the surviving former LEMSIP chimps. as part of the deal.
Yet another early and longtime International Primate Protection League team member, Cyril Rosen, died at age 86 on December 21, 2013 at his home in Castletown on the Isle of Mann.
“In the early 1960s,” the Daily Telegraph reported, Rosen “rescued and nursed back to health a baby West African mona monkey.”
This inspired Rosen to advocate against keeping nonhuman primates as pets and as subjects of experiments.
“For a time he served as trustee and secretary of the now-defunct British Monkey Owners’ Society,” the Daily Telegraph said, “and helped to advise on the establishment of primate sanctuaries at home and overseas.”
Rescued Spanish beach chimps
Rosen founded IPPL-UK in 1977. In that role, Rosen “gave evidence to parliamentary committees on the role of chimpanzees in medical research and served as an expert witness in a landmark 1985 court case against the Royal College of Surgeons,” the Daily Telegraph noted. The prosecution won a cruelty conviction that was later overturned on appeal.
Recalled McGreal, “Working with IPPL’s Spanish representatives, the late Simon and Peggy Templer, Rosen organized a long and eventually successful campaign to end the abuse of chimpanzees used as tourist touts on Spanish beaches. The hapless animals often had their teeth chiseled out and were fed tranquilizers. The surviving chimpanzees were transferred to Monkey World,” a British sanctuary.
Rosen’s last major campaign was against boxing orangutan shows in Thailand in 2004. IPPL-UK was disbanded after Rosen retired to the Isle of Mann in 2006.
Geza P. Teleki, who died at age 77 on January 6, 2014 at his home in Budapest, Hungary, “was a member of the IPPL advisory board since 1978,” Shirley McGreal recalled after his death
“He had studied the chimpanzees at Gombe Stream, Tanzania, in the early days,” with Jane Goodall.,” Shirley McGreal said.
“It is less well known,” Shirley McGreal continued, “that in his early career Geza studied a colony of gibbons who were maintained on Hall Island off Bermuda. He blew the whistle on the abusive treatment inflicted on them by cruel experimenters.”
The International Primate Protection League exposed the situation in March 1976.
“Later he went to Sierra Leone,” Shirley McGreal said, “where he established the first national park, Outamba-Kilimi. He uncovered the Immuno A.G. scheme to set up a chimp lab in Sierra Leone and sent us the incriminating documents which led Immuno to sue me, Dr. Jan Moor-Jankowski, and others for millions,”
Animal rights movement
In 1981, Shirley McGreal remembered, “PETA needed affidavits about the conditions at researcher Edward Taub’s lab,” in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“They asked us for credible contacts and Geza was among those taken into the lab at night,” leading to the first convictions of a biomedical researcher for cruelty since 1927. Taub won reversal of the convictions, however, on jurisdictional grounds.
The growth of the U.S. animal rights movement helped the International Primate Protection League to grow right along with it, taking on ever more investigations and campaigns.
Zira the gorilla
In 1983, for example, Shirley McGreal learned that a baby gorilla named Zira had been exported from Cameroon to the Granby Zoo in Quebec. The zoo had obtained a permit for the transaction, as required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES], but Shirley McGreal contended that the permit was issued in violation of the intent of CITES, if not in violation of the actual letter of the treaty.
Zira meanwhile contracted avian influenza from the exotic birds with whom she was housed. McGreal asked Quebec newspaper columnist Bernard Epps to expose her plight.
Shirley McGreal, Beth, & Merritt
Epps, who died in July 2007, passed the assignment to then-Sherbrooke Record farm and business reporter Merritt Clifton, editor of ANIMALS 24-7.
Epps wrote supporting commentary while Clifton produced a series of exposés that culminated in a complete change of the Granby Zoo management and the transfer of Zira to the Toronto Zoo, where she was restored to health and raised with other young gorillas.
Shirley McGreal ever after remained a warm, helpful, and always informative correspondent of both Beth and Merritt Clifton, and was a generous donor to ANIMALS 24-7.
Other International Primate Protection League highlights from the mid-1980s, summarized on the IPPL web site:
• 1983: IPPL Belgian representative Roland Corluy infiltrated the operations of Belgian smuggler George Munro and found a cache of endangered primates, including bonobos, in the animal dealer’s basement. Belgium subsequently adopted legislation to ban wildlife trafficking.
• 1984: IPPL successfully fought plans by three U.S. zoos to import seven wild-caught gorillas from Cameroon, offered for sale by the Miami animal dealer Matthew Block, with whom Shirley McGreal would clash many more times over the next 34 years.
Also in 1984, the International Primate Protection League timeline mentions, “After years of IPPL protests about the misuse of Malaysian monkeys in military research, Malaysia banned monkey exports.”
• 1985: “The International Primate Protection League secured the release to a sanctuary of four chimpanzees sent to a lab run by toxicologist Fred Coulston after their circus trainer died.”
• 1986: “International Primate Protection League field representative Bernadette Bresard found that a Japanese laboratory was keeping monkeys continuously in metal restraint chairs. International Primate Protection League protests led to the monkeys being removed from the chairs.”
Also in 1986, after primatologist, Gorillas In The Mist author, and early International Primate Protection League member Dian Fossey was murdered at her Karisoke research station in Rwanda, Shirley McGreal raised funds to help carry on her work.
• 1987: The International Primate Protection League investigated the smuggling of three baby gorillas from Cameroon to Taiwan, in a transaction paralleling the Zira case. Only one baby gorilla arrived alive. International Primate Protection League work “led to prosecutions of the criminals in several countries. The head of the smuggling operation, Walter Sensen, was expelled from Cameroon and later imprisoned in Germany,” the timeline summarizes.
• 1988: Actress Elizabeth Taylor “and her billionaire lover Malcolm Forbes arrived in Bangkok on Forbes’ luxury yacht,” Shirley McGreal wrote. “Forbes bought a very small baby gibbon for Elizabeth. After coming under criticism from local conservationists, Elizabeth and Malcolm sailed away minus the baby gibbon. He ended up with Leonie Vejjajiva,” then volunteering for the Wildlife Rescue Foundation of Thailand.
Leonie Vejjajiva subsequently represented the International Primate Protection League in Thailand until her death in 2013.
• 1989: The International Primate Protection League uncovered a series of transactions in which wild-captured animals were smuggled into Polish zoos and then re-exported to western zoos with papers falsely identifying them as “captive-born.”
Recalled Shirley McGreal, “Poland put a stop to these activities and joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”
World Wide Primates founder Matthew Block, with whom Shirley McGreal first clashed in 1984, was the central figure in the “Bangkok Six” case.
The “Bangkok Six” case broke on February 20, 1990, Shirley McGreal recalled, when Leonie Vejjajiva, then still with the Wildlife Rescue Foundation of Thailand, called to tell her that six baby orangutans had been seized from smugglers at the Bangkok airport.
Packed in a crate marked “Birds,” several of them upside down, the baby orangutans were en route from Indonesia to Moscow by way of Serbia, in a deal arranged by Block.
“Soon IPPL member Dianne Taylor-Snow was in the air to Bangkok to help the babies,” Shirley McGreal wrote.
The “Bangkok Six” case introduced Shirley McGreal to then-Belgrade Zoo volunteer Milka Knezevic-Ivaskovic, who was surrogate mother to a baby orangutan.
“She hadn’t proper shipping documents, and I started to realize that her arrival was for some reason being kept a secret,” Knezevic-Ivaskovic recalled in 2003. “I learned about IPPL and contacted Shirley McGreal. Then I started to write articles for various newspapers, to inform people about the terrible ways of killing orangutan mothers to get babies, how babies were smuggled, and about Belgrade Zoo director Vukosav Bojovic’s role in the Bangkok Six affair.
“Unfortunately,” Knezevic-Ivaskovic continued, “at that time there was no freedom of the press in my country. I was accused by Bojovic of libel and slander. I was tried and found guilty, despite many witnesses testifying on my behalf.”
Shirley McGreal helped Knezevic-Ivaskovic through five years of appeals. Eventually Knezevic-Ivaskovic was cleared of the allegations against her. Like Leonie Vejjajiva, Knezevic-Ivaskovic became a volunteer International Primate Protection League representative.
Matthew Block to cell block
Matthew Block eventually drew 13 months in prison for offenses pertaining to the “Bangkok Six” case.
Block later moved to Israel, but returned to the U.S.
Block in January 2018 pleaded guilty in federal court to mailing envelopes containing suspicious white powder and a threatening letter to the home of a World Wide Primates employee and to his recently deceased mother’s house, in an attempt to frame animal rights activists.
“Block accepted five years of probation and agreed to pay $14,872 for the cost of the police investigation,” David Ovalle of the Miami Herald reported.
Despite that history, in April 2020, Block’s Miami-based company, World Wide Primates, received a $1,840,000 contract to supply monkeys to the National Institutes of Health as an “emergency acquisition” for COVID-19 research use.
Labs of Virginia Inc.
Two months later, reported Sam Ogozalek of the Island Packet, “Alpha Genesis Inc., a primate research company in northern Beaufort County,” in South Carolina, “won a $4.6 million contract from the National Institutes of Health for ‘maintenance’ of pathogen-free macaque monkey breeding colonies, according to procurement data released by the federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.”
Alpha Genesis had a long history of Animal Welfare Act violations, some of them detailed in the November 22, 2015 ANIMALS 24-7 exposé Lab chimp retirement upstages steep rise in monkey use.
Before becoming Alpha Genesis, the company was called Labs of Virginia Inc., and figured prominently in another of Shirley McGreal’s most prominent investigations.
Worked eight years to win conviction
The case began in 1996, when Labs of Virginia bought a breeding colony of 1,312 macaques from Indonesian Aquatics Export CV, doing business as Inquatex.
In compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Indonesian law forbade the export of the macaques if they were wild-caught, and U.S. law forbade importing them if wild-caught.
Nonetheless, at least 327 of the 846 macaques who arrived at O’Hare Airport between mid-February and mid-May 1997 as part of the transaction were eventually found to have been captured from the wild.
Alerted to the dealings before all of the macaques were flown to the U.S., Shirley McGreal pursued criminal indictments against Labs of Virginia executives for five years. Winning the eventual corporate guilty pleas took two more years.
Finally, though, Labs of Virginia Inc. on August 18, 2004 pleaded guilty to a felony count of submitting false records to U.S. government agencies pertaining to a shipment of 220 monkeys purchased from Indonesian animal dealer Agus Darmawan in 1997.
Yet another longtime International Primate Protection League team member, Lynette Shanley, of Portland, Australia, came Shirley McGreal’s way in 1990, but through an entirely different case.
Recalled Shanley in Speaking Up for Animals: An Anthology of Women’s Voices, assembled by Lisa Kemmerer in 2012, “One morning in October 1990, I opened the newspaper to find that William McBride, the doctor who discovered the effects of thalidomide, was going to euthanize 240 marmosets. In desperation I phoned Shirley McGreal. I never thought I would actually talk to her, but she answered the phone. She gave me a few good ideas, and a few weeks later suggested that I focus on helping primates in Australia. Australia’s first primate welfare organization, Primates for Primates, was born.”
“Lynette came twice as a speaker to IPPL conferences and arranged for me to give a lecture tour in Australia,” Shirley McGreal recalled after Shanley died of cancer at age 67 in July 2017.
“Lynette and I walked around the streets of Sydney and found some skeletons of animals on sale in an art store. Colin Groves determined their species and complained to the authorities,” Shirley McGreal noted.
Cairo airport case
Each International Primate Protection League investigation and exposé tended to lead to many more. Each friend Shirley McGreal made along the way, and she made many, helped to extend her ability to intervene on behalf of exploited nonhuman primates––and often on behalf of other animals and exploited humans, as well.
James Mahoney, for example, whom Shirley McGreal met 20 years earlier in connection with her acquiring the LEMSIP gibbons, in September 2001 helped McGreal to amplify global protest against the actions of Egyptian customs officials and ministry of agriculture veterinarians stationed at the Cairo airport.
The Cairo airport officials had intercepted an Egyptian/Nigerian woman in illegal possession of a four-month-old gorilla and a baby chimpanzee.
Both animals had been smuggled aboard a flight to Cairo from Lagos without the transport permits required under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Wrongly believing the infant gorilla and chimpanzee might be carrying HIV or Ebola virus, the officials drowned both animals in a vat of chemicals that they thought would sterilize the remains.
Case led to four gorillas being rescued
Mahoney and Shirley McGreal pointed out that both the gorilla and chimpanzee could easily have been repatriated to the Pandrillus sanctuary in Nigeria, had anyone bothered to ask, and had not even been seen by anyone knowledgeable about primate illnesses before they were killed.
While Mahoney and Shirley McGreal were too late to help the gorilla and chimpanzee babies, their involvement caused EgyptAir to ban further primate shipments.
The Egyptian episode also led to IPPL uncovering the illegal export of four baby gorillas from the Ibadan Zoo in Nigeria to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia. The gorillas were confiscated by Malaysian wildlife authorities and in 2007 were at last repatriated to Cameroun, their nation of origin.
Order of the British Empire
Shirley McGreal received many awards and honors during her long career in animal advocacy, including admission to the Order of the British Empire in 2008, by nomination of longtime International Primate Protection League volunteer Ann Koros.
“Two days before the Investiture,” wrote Jean Martin, who attended the ceremony with Ann Koros, “there was an exciting phone call from Major Richard Maundrell, equerry-in-waiting to the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip had requested a private meeting with Shirley.
“Before the ceremony Shirley had a 20-minute meeting with the prince. They discussed previous cases in which Prince Philip had worked with Shirley,” including the “Bangkok Six” case.
Prince Philip “had written a wonderful letter to the judge to request that the case be prosecuted fully,” Martin recalled. “They also discussed contemporary issues involving primates, including the emergence of China as a major supplier of primates to laboratories.
“Queen Elizabeth II presented the award. She spoke with Shirley and asked her about her work with primates and about the wonderful gibbon necklace that Shirley always wore.”
Said the International Primate Protection League web site, “Of all her commendations, though, Shirley was perhaps proudest of the small plaque presented to her in 1994 by the Interpol Wildlife Crime Group/Dutch Police League in honor of her work in exposing the international ring of primate smugglers that had been responsible for” the “Bangkok Six” case.
Disappointments in Nepal & Malaysia
The last two of Shirley McGreal’s accomplishments listed on the International Primate Protection League timeline unfortunately became disappointments.
“IPPL had been collaborating with Wildlife Watch Group in Nepal since 2006 to protect that country’s native rhesus monkeys,” says the timeline. “After working successfully against two proposed ‘monkey farms,’” which would have bred macaques for laboratory use, the Wildlife Watch Group [in 2011] unveiled plans to establish Nepal’s first wildlife sanctuary, to be named in honor of Shirley McGreal.”
But the “Shirley Sanctuary,” as the Wildlife Watch Group called it, appears never to have become reality.
Two years later, in November 2013, the International Primate Protection League timeline claims, then-Malaysian minister for natural resources and environment Maximux Ongkili “suspended the culling of his nation’s monkeys, a program that had killed nearly 200,000 wild macaques, after he received petition signatures gathered by the International Primate Protection League.”
Yet the culling, begun in 2011, in truth continued. Another 70,000 wild macaques were reportedly culled before the end of Ongkili’s tenure in 2018, and the culling may yet be going on, albeit mostly on the quiet.
Shirley McGreal had picked as her eventual successor Linda Howard.
A computer systems analyst by trade, Howard was by avocation a humane investigator, animal rights organizer, and behind-the-scenes communicator and facilitator, who for more than 15 years helped IPPL to bring wildlife traffickers and abusers to justice, organized the coast-to-coast Primate Freedom Tour in 1999, and brokered exotic animal rescues and relocations worldwide by telephone and Internet.
But Howard, 39, unexpectedly shot herself on July 27, 2006, after a domestic dispute at her home in San Antonio, Texas.
“Primates never had a better friend and primate abusers never had a more formidable foe,”
recalled Shirley McGreal.
“Despite her years of selfless struggle on behalf of our primate cousins, Linda had never seen a wild monkey. I invited her to come with me to the International Primatological Society Congress held in Entebbe, Uganda, in late June 2006, and to travel with me afterwards to Murchison Falls National Park in northern Uganda.
“On the drive up we saw many baboons and every time Linda would insist the driver stop and we would watch the troop until the baboons disappeared from view.
“We went on to Jacana Lodge in the forested area of Queen Elizabeth Park. The trees were full of exquisite colobus monkeys and the more elusive redtail guenons. One night I was in the lodge reception area and Linda stayed in the room.
Mother & baby
“There was a knock on the door. Linda opened the door and there stood a mother and baby baboon. It was as if they somehow knew there was a friend behind that door. The baboons made no effort to enter. They just stood there briefly, and left. Linda was overjoyed.”
Shirley McGreal later designated other successors, but none lasted long after being introduced to the International Primate Protection League workload.
During her last eighteen months Shirley McGreal repeatedly communicated to ANIMALS 24-7 her fear that the International Primate Protection League assets, after her passing, would fall under the control of one or another of the major national and/or international animal charities, and be liquidated to help pay fat executive salaries.
The global COVID-19 pandemic obliged cancellation of what would have been Shirley McGreal’s last biennial International Primate Protection League conference, scheduled for March 2020.