Rhesus monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates used in laboratory research are being seriously depleted in the wild by irresponsible collecting for medical and space research. Capture of predominantly young animals (in some cases 4-9 individuals are killed for each one caught) and females of any primate population reduces the breeding potential of the population to the point where the future availability of the species becomes seriously endangered.
In 1999, scientists discovered that a subspecies of chimpanzee in the African rainforests was the original source of the AIDS virus. It had leapt the species barrier to human when hunters butchering monkeys for meat made nicks in their own skin. They now want to study the chimps, which share 98 percent of human DNA and do not themselves suffer from any of the symptoms of the virus.
During the 6 peak years of polio vaccine production in the 1950's, the USA imported more than 1.5 million rhesus monkeys. As most of these were juveniles, the projected population loss is five times higher, or about 7 million animals. In 1960, a survey in India showed that 63% of the villages and temples surveyed had lost their populations of rhesus monkeys during the preceding 5 years. Nine Asian and 8 African species of primates, plus 7 entire genera from the Americas are now potentially threatened by laboratory use. It is estimated that only half of those collected are used for meaningful research.
In Africa, the eating of "bush meat" – wildlife taken for the dinner table – is commonplace. Apes' heads, hands and flesh are displayed alongside beef and pork in markets across the continent. Animal rights activists counted some 15,000 animal carcasses, including 293 chimps, in bush meat markets in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo in one day in 1998. Monkey meat is prized amongst East Africans, usually smoked and is being illegally imported to countries with African immigrants, such as Belgium and London, UK.