Iran: Monkey trade fuels speculation of biological weapons tests
Tehran, 7 July (AKI) – More than 215 endangered monkeys have been sold to Iran by a Tanzanian dealer and sent to a laboratory known for conducting experiments into biological weapons, according to a British media report.
An inquiry by the London daily, The Sunday Times, revealed that the endangered Vervet monkeys had been sold to the Razi Vaccine & Serum Research Institute in Karaj, located 50 kilometres west of Tehran.
The monkeys, sold for 75 euros each, were reportedly used to test new vaccines, but suspicions arose when the Iranians reportedly bought monkeys that weighed only one and a half kilos. According to the monkey dealer, monkeys of this size cannot be used for that type of experiment.
The Sunday Times said that the monkeys may have been used for research involving biological weapons, because the Razi Institute has been accused of carrying out experiments by an Iranian opposition group.
“Iran is very secretive,” said the Tanzanian dealer Nazir Manji, who sells over 4,000 monkeys each year to laboratories all over the world.
“They said it (the Vervet monkeys) was for our country, for vaccine,” said Manji, referring to Iranian buyers.
“But I think they use it for something else. You know why? Because they don’t go on kilos. Iran wants 1.5 kilos to 2.5 kilos, (but) 1.5kg for vaccine is not possible,” said Manji.
The Razi institute was established in 1925 as a research facility focusing primarily on biological products and veterinary diseases, said the company’s website.
Vervets are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Despite this they are being routinely caught and sold to buyers.
Another Tanzanian dealer, Filbert Rubibira, was asked last year to prepare an order of monkeys to send to the Chinese military for “scientific purposes”. The deal was cancelled at the last minute for undisclosed reasons.