Angela Maldonado deserves to be known as “Our Angel of the Night Monkeys.” Last year she filed charges against the most powerful scientist in Colombia. This year she won.
On July 5, the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca in Colombia revoked the permits of noted malaria researcher Dr. Manuel Elkin Patarroyo. (His lab has benefitted greatly from government funding over the years, though a vaccine for malaria seems as elusive as ever.) These permits, originally valid until 2015, would have allowed him to acquire as many as 4,000 night monkeys for his jungle laboratory, the Institute of Immunology Foundation of Colombia (FIDIC), according to an article in El Tiempo.
Angela has been studying New World monkeys in the wild for nearly 15 years. She was shocked when she discovered that lab officials at FIDIC had persuaded the poor native people of Peru and Brazil—just across the Amazon River from Patarroyo’s facility—to capture night monkeys and transport them across the unguarded border. The local people probably didn’t know that they could be violating an international treaty (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES) by engaging in cross-border trade in a night monkey species, Aotus nancymaae, that is not native to Colombia.
Not only that, Angela and her grassroots organization Fundación Entropika uncovered evidence that workers at FIDIC would release many of their experimental animals—sick and weak—into the Colombian jungle when they were finished with them. No rehabilitation plan, no environmental controls, nothing, according to Angela. Judge Claudia Elizabeth Lozzi Moreno ruled that the Colombian Ministry of Environment and the Corporation for the Sustainable Development of Southern Amazonia (CORPOAMAZONIA), which were responsible for monitoring FIDIC, had instead colluded with the lab in this inhumane and ecologically destructive travesty—a pattern, she said, that went back to 1984.
This is an amazing legal victory, and we hope it’s not the only one. According to Fundación Entropika, “The court’s decision is the first step to stop the illegal trade in night monkeys, as current permits were revoked. We would like to remark however that, once the defendants submit their appeals, the law case will be transferred to another court.” There, the legal battle will surely continue to ramp up. “For this reason, we have to initiate the next legal actions in order to guarantee that the court’s decision will be implemented by the defendants.”
IPPL has been proud to help support Angela’s work for years. We know the night monkeys are counting on her.