saves baboons from French nuclear tests
Police forced their way into an experimental facility in the Northern Province on Saturday to allow animal welfare organisations to rescue 14 Chacma baboons destined for use in nuclear weapons testing, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said.
A boltcutter was used to force the locks of the French-run Centre Africaine Primatologie Experimentale (Cape) near Hazyview, after the director, Marc Bailley-Maistre - in contempt of a court order awarding temporary custody of the animals to the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (Care) - refused access to the facility, the IFAW spokesperson, Christian Pretorius, said in a statement.
"He was aggressive, unpleasant and absolutely not prepared to let us in," Karen Pilling of Care told the IFAW.
"Fortunately, we were supported by the nearby Calcutta police who explained to Bailley-Maistre that he was in contempt, and then forced the lock on the access gate."
'Their condition is appalling'
The Cape centre, which is on public land, is believed to export between 60 and 70 baboons annually to the French military for the testing of nuclear and other weapons. The centre has been linked to the Roodeplaat Research Laboratory, where the South African Defence Force conducted chemical and biological experiments, Pretorius said.
The baboons released on Saturday were examined by consulting veterinary surgeon to the IFAW, Dr Nthethe Raditapole, who said their condition was "appalling".
"Four of the baboons are emaciated to the point that their survival is questionable. All of them are stunted in from a lack of food and their teeth are in very poor condition," he said.
"They are also anaemic and that would suggest they are suffering worm infestation.
"Furthermore, the baboons are a lot older than originally thought - about seven-to-eight years old - and we have no idea how long they have been kept. Worse, we don't know if they have been used in laboratory experimentation."
'He was aggressive, unpleasant and not prepared to let us in' Care had earlier obtained a court order allowing them to remove the animals.
Criminal charges were laid against Cape after inspections by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in May discovered 21 baboons - described as being "emaciated beyond belief" - at the centre. Seven of the animals had to be killed.
"We don't believe that South Africa should be involved in the trafficking of its valuable wildlife for such unnecessary and horrible experimentation," Pilling said.
Bailley-Maistre could not be reached for comment.