Two Cotton top tamarins, a critically endangered species protected by federal law, were sent to Pacific Primate Sanctuary using Continental’s “Pet Safe” Program from Northeast Ohio Medical University, Cleveland to Honolulu via Los Angeles, on 2/27/12. They were both dead when they arrived. The receiving agent at Animal Quarantine in Honolulu reported that the tamarins were face down, stiff and cold, as if they had been dead for some time. There was a small amount of blood coming out of both of their mouths.
The research professor at NEOMED told Continental Air Cargo: “Prior to departure, the animals were certified healthy by a licensed veterinarian, were provided with food and water ad libitum until 2.5 hours prior to leaving CLE, and were provided with adequate sustenance, including moist fruits, in their kennel during transport.“
Since the tamarins were healthy when they left Cleveland, and were seen moving by the runner at the Los Angeles Continental QuickPak station, we believe the only explanation for both of their deaths must lie with Continental Air Cargo, induced by mishandling, decompression and/or hypothermia, on the flight from LA to Maui.
Veterinarians have indicated that since both animals were affected and they were in the cargo hold of an airplane, and the changes indicated in the pathology report can be seen with rapid decompression injury. It seems the odds of a simultaneous death due to other reasons in these circumstances would be unlikely.
I imagine Continental Cargo has examined the flight record and would know if there was an incident of some sort on Monday, February 27, 2012, from Cleveland to Honolulu via Los Angeles (Flight 1245 from CLE to LAX and Flight 1562 from LAX to HNL). Specifically, was there fluctuation in the pressure of the cargo hold and where were the Cotton top tamarins situated during the flights.
We have repeatedly requested copies of the flight logs and all information about the handling of the primates throughout the trip from Continental “Pet Safe” program, without any response. We received conflicting reports about the presence of other animals on the flight from LA to Honolulu on 2/27. We have asked Continental Cargo to clarify if other animals were on the flight, where they were located on the plane, and what their condition was upon arrival in Honolulu and have not received any information.
If these two animals died because of negligence or problems with pressure or temperature control during the flight, we would expect the Continental Air Cargo “Pet Safe" manager, to contact us, be honest in disclosure, take responsibility, and make whatever changes and improvements are necessary to prevent such tragedies from happening again. We owe at least that much to these tamarins who spent their entire lives in research laboratories and were finally en-route to our sanctuary in Hawaii.