How the race for a Covid vaccine enriched monkey poachers and endangered macaques

"The insane demand coming from the U.S. is driving the trade to an unsustainable level," said Malene Friis Hansen, the director of the Long-tailed Macaque Project.

Gary Tucker was attending a conference on monkeys used in medical research when he spotted some uninvited guests: agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As they walked in and out of the Colorado hotel, Tucker, an executive at a monkey import company, hid in the lobby to spy on them, according to federal prosecutors.

He had good reason to be wary. The agents were investigating whether his company, Orient BioResource Center, and its competitors were involved in an international monkey smuggling scheme in which endangered primates were being pulled from the wild and shipped to the United States for use by government researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

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