On January 20, a flight from the Spanish airline Wamos Air was flying to Houston after having made a stopover in Madrid at dawn. On the plane 720 monkeys were transported. These were long-tailed macaques, the most widely traded non-human primates used in research, primarily in toxicity tests (ie through poisoning).
Upon arrival in Madrid at 2:23 a.m., they had already been subjected to a long period of confinement in small cages, including a 15-hour flight and a 4-hour layover in Tbilisi, Georgia. The organizations Action4Primates, OneVoice Y StopCamarles They have addressed the competent authorities requesting urgent guarantees and information on the welfare checks that were carried out while the animals were on Spanish soil: how they have been able to feed and give water properly, as well as carry out the pertinent health checks, 720 monkeys during the limited time (less than two hours) that the plane was on the ground at the Madrid airport until its departure at 4:07 am for the United States.
A few weeks ago, on December 8, 2021, a Wamos Air flight headed to Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia, where it landed around 8:00 p.m. local time. According to sources from these organizations, this flight would also load hundreds of monkeys and transport them to the United States, also making a stopover in Madrid. On November 15, Wamos Air had already transported 720 monkeys on a similar route: flight EB998 from Cambodia to the United States (specifically to Houston, Texas).
During air transportation, the monkeys travel as cargo and are confined, alone and packaged in small boxes, called ‘transit boxes’. In addition to crowded conditions, they may be forced to endure inadequate ventilation, loud and unfamiliar noises, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, and delays along the way. Monkeys can get sick or die in transit. For others, anxiety and stress lead to infections and other illnesses that can lie dormant until the animals reach their destination.
No matter how diligent the airline is in its effort to minimize – in accordance with IATA rules – the suffering experienced by these animals, it is undeniable that non-human primates will suffer in air transport: the stress, the anguish and the suffering are inherent in the process itself. Before the traumatic ordeal experienced during transport, the monkeys will have already suffered the anguish of being separated from their families and social groups.
The ordeal suffered by the monkeys on the November Wamos Air flight included 24 hours of travel, with an additional six-hour layover in Tbilisi, to which was added a three-hour delay. In addition, many had already passed in transit to and from airports in Cambodia and Texas.
Finally, upon arrival at the Houston airport, several monkeys were found dead on board the Wamos plane.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) told the British newspaper The Independent that it was aware of the death of the monkeys and that an animal welfare inspector was present when the flight arrived in Houston. . However, the full extent of this tragedy is still unknown, including not only how many monkeys died, but also how many others may have had difficulty and suffering during transport. Wamos Air has not offered any statement to the media.
During 2021, Wamos Air has transported hundreds of monkeys in several shipments, mainly from Cambodia, but also, at least one, from Mauritius. All monkeys are intended to be used for research purposes in the United States. The monkeys aboard flight EB998 on November 15 were destined for Envigo, a global contract research company that uses various species of animals, including monkeys, to conduct tests on behalf of other companies.
Many of Wamos Air’s shipments are made up of 720 overalls, confined in individual compartments of 144 transit boxes. The Wamos Air flight usually makes a stopover at the Madrid-Barajas airport. For example, on September 17, 2021, 720 monkeys flew 18,717 kilometers, from Cambodia to the United States, via Madrid, enduring more than 24 hours of confinement in cages. In addition, they suffered a layover of about four hours at the Madrid-Barajas airport.
Airlines play an important role in the global trade in non-human primates for research. But thanks to widespread international public concern about it, many of the world’s major airlines – including American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, South African Airways, China Airlines, Delta Airlines, Eva Air and Air Canada – they ended their participation in this cruel business. Many other passenger airlines and cargo companies have also declared their intention not to be involved in this trade.
Wamos Air (formerly Pullmantur Air) is a Spanish airline that mainly operates leisure charter flights. Its parent organizations include Royal Caribbean Cruises. The Florida-based Royal Caribbean Group is the US global cruise holding company and the cruise line operator of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises.
A signature campaign in Europe led by the platform Stop Camarles (Spain), Action for Primates (UK) and One Voice (France) asks Wamos Air to join the many other airlines already committed not to transport monkeys destined for research.
“The shocking and heartbreaking incident of the death of those monkeys is a clear reminder of the great suffering that global trade and transport of non-human primates destined for research entails. This issue generates social concern and it is time for Wamos Air to join the long list of airlines that now refuse to be part of this cruelty,” said Sarah Kite, co-founder of Action for Primates.
For her part, María Gaya, head of communication at Wamos Air, with whom these organizations in defense of animals have been in contact, stated that the airline is concerned about this matter and announced that between the first and second week of last December would make a decision on the matter. However, it has not given more information to the NGOs, so they assume that it is not planned to stop making these tragic flights.