TEL AVIV, Israel — More than 1,200 monkeys have been saved from the horrors of laboratory testing after a U.S.-based conservationist paid $2 million for them, activists said.
Businessman Ady Gil purchased the 1,250 long-tailed macaques from the secretive Mazor Farm in Israel, which had planned to shift its operation to Florida after Israel’s laws governing wild animal exports changed in January.
Animal-rights activist Anat Refua battled for 16 years to save the primates. “These monkeys are now saved from such a cruel, cruel destiny, and I’m so happy,” she told NBC News. "They will never separate a baby from a mother, which they've been doing here so many years."
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The Israeli-born Gil said Mazor Farm, which is located near Ben Gurion airport, had shipped around 6,000 monkeys to laboratories worldwide at a price of $3,500 each since it began operating in the early 1990s.
Hidden behind a security fence topped by barbed wire and shielded by a massive row of bougainvillea, the farm operated in secrecy for nearly a decade before it was exposed in 1999.
The end of the line was signaled two years ago when Israel's environment minister, an animal-rights sympathizer, announced changes to the country’s wild animal export laws.
Gil said the operation had plans to sell the monkeys to laboratories in the U.S. More than 125,000 primates are kept in U.S. laboratories, according to animal-rights organization PETA, which alleges the animals are exposed to “painful and traumatic procedures.”
The Los Angeles-based Gil said he and his fellow conservationists now plan to expand the fledgling monkey sanctuary. But looking after the monkeys won’t be cheap.
Gil said the macaques — which have a lifespan of 30 years — cost $1 a day each to care for.
“Do the math,” he added. “That’s 350,000 times 30 — we’re looking at close to $10 million. So the question is: how do you raise that money?”