Israel Finally Transfers Money to Save Monkeys on Brink of Starvation

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Macaque monkeys at the Mazor Farm last year.
Macaque monkeys at the Mazor Farm last year.Credit: Moti Milrod

Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry transferred 180,000 shekels ($49,300) just before Passover to provide care for the remaining 1,250 macaque monkeys at the Mazor Monkey farm. This is the first time the government has taken responsibility for the monkeys and allocated funds for their care.  

Last week, the High Court of Justice heard a petition filed by Shmurat Hakofim, the private company caring for the macaques left at the shuttered monkey breeding farm, demanding the government take over responsibility for the monkeys, including paying for their care. At the end of the hearing, the three justice panel ordered the government to transfer 180,000 shekels a month for each of the next three months directly to the company that manages the Mazor farm.

Shmurat Hakofim is a public-benefit corporation. At year-end 2014, the company officially purchased the 1,250 monkeys from Mazor in order to prevent their sale and export. However, the company warned last week that it is almost out of food and that the foreign workers caring for the macaques will be leaving soon.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Ministry said it had the money ready, but Shmurat Hakofim was unable to accept it because it does not have an active bank account and lacked required income tax forms.

Shmurat Hakofim’s founder, Amos Ron, said six months ago that the purchase of the farm and the monkeys was based on a promise from senior Environmental Protection Ministry officials that they would find a permanent solution for the monkeys, while the government said it had made no such promise and the company bore sole responsibility.

In the end, a month and a half ago the Ministry agreed to fund the care of the monkeys over the next two years, at a total cost of 4.4 million shekels. The justices ordered the government to come up with a plan by the end of the month to care for the monkeys for the next two years.

Mazor was founded over 20 years ago in central Israel to breed monkeys as an export product, for medical experimentation abroad. However, after years of protest by animal-rights groups, the state ultimately shut it down.

Under Israeli law, monkeys born in captivity may be sold for medical experimentation: The state thus sent the macaques born at Mazor to zoos in Israel, chiefly the Ben Shemen monkey farm. Another 1,250 macaques that had been captured in the wild, and were thus theoretically “not kosher” for sale for experimentation, remained at Mazor: It is their fate that's at stake now.

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