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International Primate Protection League

The International Primate Protection League (IPPL) is an animal rights and welfare organization founded in 1973 in Thailand by Dr. Shirley McGreal, OBE. [1]

While IPPL has grown and diversified over the years, the organization’s main focus has remained the same since its inception: to promote the conservation and protection around the world of all non-human primates (NHP), including apes, monkeys, and lemurs. Coordinating an international network of 15,000 members, Dr. McGreal and IPPL work to curb illegal primate trafficking, intervene in abusive practices, and encourage the efforts of sanctuaries and protection groups worldwide. England's Prince Philip is among McGreal’s and IPPL’s most devoted supporters. [2]

The organization’s main headquarters and gibbon sanctuary was established in the USA in Summerville, South Carolina, in 1977. The now disbanded British branch, IPPL-UK, was founded in 1977 by Cyril Rosen.[3] IPPL is currently represented in 31 countries. [4]

IPPL’s advisory board includes experts from zoology, anthropology, medicine, biology, veterinary medicine, and psychology. Over the years, a number of distinguished individuals have served and continue to serve, including Dame Jane Goodall and the late Dian Fossey. IPPL hosts bi-annual worldwide summits to maintain and promote the cause of animal rights and of the rights of the world’s non-human primates in particular. [5]

IPPL works in a number of areas. In countries where NHPs live, IPPL helps create and preserve national parks and sanctuaries and lobbies for bans on hunting and trapping. It raises money to fund sanctuaries, including one for gibbons obtained from research laboratories and zoos. In countries that import NHPs, IPPL monitors the trade, and the conditions in which zoo and laboratory NHPs are kept. Over the years, IPPL has exposed illegal animal smuggling rings and poaching operations as well as challenged major universities, corporations, and even the U.S. Military regarding their treatment and use of NHPs. [6]

Because of IPPL’s dogmatic approach to its mission, it has been the target of a number of lawsuits over the years by Lufthansa, Immuno, and other such large corporate entities. [7]


Dr. Shirley McGreal, OBE,  founded IPPL in 1973 while living in Thailand. IPPL immediately took a protective and advocatory stance for the world’s primates, questioning and investigating the practices of many organizations involved in import/export, pet trade, transportation, and experimentation, as well as those who dealt in NHPs illegally, such as smugglers and poachers. IPPL has lobbied extensively to have laws passed protecting primates in countries all around the world. [8]

One of Dr. McGreal’s first undertakings was to go undercover in Thailand, posing as a potential buyer of smuggled primates. The information she uncovered would later be published in Bangkok newspapers and the Associated Press. She also worked with university students in Thailand to gather intelligence on living conditions of primates being exported from the country. She reported her findings to the prime minister, who immediately banned the export of primates and many other mammals in 1979.

Between 1973 and 1976, Dr. McGreal worked with Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai to ban the export of monkeys from India. This was after the Times of India ran an editorial based on press releases from IPPL calling for a ban on primate exports. Indira Gandhi, who replaced Desai in office, agreed to uphold the ban.

Bangladesh passed a similar ban shortly after IPPL exposed the practices of unscrupulous laboratories that were conducting experiments on monkeys to test the effects of radiation exposure by forcing the animals to perform on treadmills, then irradiating them and putting them back on the treadmills. The animals were collapsing on the machines and vomiting. One company had a contract with an American business to export 70,000 monkeys to the U.S. The Bangladesh government expelled the U.S. company.

IPPL has challenged the practices of various universities and other such organizations around the world, including University of California, Yale University, Medical University of South Carolina, and others, as well as exposing the U.S. Air Force on a number of their experimental programs involving primates. [9]


As a not for profit organization, IPPL depends on charitable contributions and donations. To that end, IPPL has worked to develop a strong base of support through annual memberships, sponsorship of rescued gibbons living at the Summerville IPPL gibbon sanctuary, and partnerships with other animal rights and not for profit organizations. [10]

One of the most powerful weapons in the IPPL’s arsenal is its newsletter, IPPL News,[11] which the organization publishes quarterly and sends to all members as well as interested subscribers. It can also be found on the organization's website. An important medium by which the organization not only keeps members and supporters up-to-date on organization matters, the newsletter also has been an important, even vital communication platform from which IPPL exposes inhumane practices and illegal activities and advocates wildlife protection legislation and reforms worldwide.

The late Dian Fossey once wrote, “I have now just today received my copy of the International Primate Protection League Newsletter. That is a big title for a little magazine, but I find your small gazette far more worthy of actual conservation information than many other magazines containing glossy pictures, etc.” [12]

Thanks to IPPL's tradition of outreach, though starting off with only a few hundred members/subscribers, the organization now has well over 15,000 worldwide. [13]


1970s [14]
1973: McGreal, established the International Primate Protection League to work on behalf of all primates, great and small, worldwide.
1974: The first issue of IPPL News (which was later honored by the BBC as one of the world’s best wildlife publications) was published. IPPL also exposed a network of smugglers that was shipping gibbons from Thailand to the U.S. and got it closed down, saving hundreds of gibbon mothers from being shot so that their babies could be exploited for profit.
1975: IPPL organized Project Bangkok Airport. Fifty Thai students worked at the airport documenting the dreadful conditions under which all wildlife was being exported. The result was a ban on export of all primates from Thailand, saving thousands of primate lives.
1976: IPPL uncovered “The Singapore Connection,” a network through which legally protected primates were smuggled from Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia via Singapore and on to the West with Singaporean export documents. IPPL’s campaign resulted in shutting this racket down.
1977: IPPL exposed the fate of rhesus monkeys exported from India to the United States for use in radiation experiments. IPPL’s protests to the Indian press and authorities led India to ban all primate exports, thus saving hundreds of thousands of monkeys from capture and incarceration in laboratories.
1978: After Dr. Christian Barnard killed one chimpanzee in heart transplant surgery, IPPL organized a worldwide protest. A second chimp slated for a heart transplant experiment was rescued and sent to a zoo. Since then, no more chimps have been killed for their hearts.
1979: IPPL exposed the misuse of Bangladesh monkeys in U.S. military radiation experiments. Bangladesh ultimately canceled plans to export more than 70,000 monkeys.

1980s [15]
1980: IPPL took legal action that resulted in the closing of a U.S. government laboratory in California that was using baby gibbons in fatal experiments. Many of the animals had been smuggled into the U.S. from Thailand.
1981: Following the closure of the California gibbon laboratory as a result of IPPL’s actions, one small, sickly gibbon, who had been reared on a wire “mother,” was sent to live at IPPL’s Headquarters Sanctuary in South Carolina This gibbon, named Arun Rangsi, recovered from the trauma of the first years of his life and, when he matured, was successfully paired with Shanti, another former lab gibbon.
1982: IPPL exposed the U.S. military’s biological warfare experiments on primates and started a campaign to persuade countries that were supplying monkeys to U.S. labs (including Malaysia and Indonesia) to ban primate exports.
1983: IPPL’s Belgian representative, Roland Corluy infiltrated the operations of the Belgian smuggler George Munro and found a cache of endangered primates, including bonobos, in the animal dealer’s basement. IPPL publicized this situation worldwide, which led to Belgium establish laws banning wildlife trafficking.
1984: IPPL successfully fought plans by three U.S. zoos to import seven wild-caught gorillas from Cameroon. These animals were being offered for sale by the Miami animal dealer Matthew Block. In addition, after years of IPPL protests about the misuse of Malaysian monkeys in military research, Malaysia banned monkey exports.
1985: IPPL secured the release to a sanctuary of four chimpanzees sent to a lab run by toxicologist Fred Coulston after their circus trainer died.
1986: IPPL Field Representative Bernadette Bresard exposed a Japanese laboratory that was keeping monkeys in metal restraint chairs in a basement. IPPL’s protests led to the monkeys’ being removed from the chairs. In addition, following the murder of IPPL member Dian Fossey, IPPL raised funds to help continue Fossey’s crusade to protect mountain gorillas from poachers in Rwanda.
1987: IPPL investigated the smuggling of three baby gorillas from Cameroon to Taiwan. Only one baby arrived alive. IPPL’s exposé led to prosecutions of the criminals in several countries. As a result, the ringleader of the smuggling gang, Walter Sensen, was expelled from Cameroon and later imprisoned in Germany.
1988: IPPL investigated the conditions of primates living in Cuban zoos. In addition, IPPL Founder Shirley McGreal won the prestigious Jeanne Marchig Award for her efforts to protect primates around the world.
1989: IPPL uncovered “The Polish Connection,” by which animals were being smuggled into Polish zoos and then re-exported with false “captive-born” documents to the West. As a result, Poland stopped these activities and joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

1990s [16]
1990: Six smuggled baby orangutans were confiscated at Bangkok Airport when their cries were overheard by airport personnel. IPPL identified the leader of the smuggling gang responsible as Matthew Block of Miami. IPPL requested a U.S. government criminal investigation of this case. IPPL’s investigative work also led to the jailing of the German gorilla smuggler Walter Sensen.
1991: IPPL learned that two baby gibbons were on sale at a market in the Philippines. IPPL’s protests led to the animals’ being returned to Thailand. At IPPL’s Headquarters Sanctuary, we accepted a baby gibbon named Beanie, who was blind and suffered from epilepsy as a result of an encephalitis epidemic in Florida. He lived at IPPL’s sanctuary, receiving special care daily, until his death in 2004.
1992: An IPPL team testified before a congressional committee about the U.S. government’s failure to prosecute Miami wildlife smuggler Matthew Block. Block was indicted for orangutan smuggling, following a protest campaign by IPPL. On learning that the U.S. government had offered him a misdemeanor plea-bargain, IPPL members flooded the judge with protests. The judge rejected the plea deal and sent the animal dealer to 13 months in prison. In addition, IPPL Founder Shirley McGreal was chosen for the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement.
1993: IPPL’s undercover eco-detectives filmed the illegal trade in wildlife in the street markets along the borders of Vietnam and China. The film footage of tortured gibbons, monkeys, and other animals was provided to the media.
1994: IPPL learned of nine chimpanzees in pet shops in Saudi Arabia. Following a letter-writing campaign by IPPL supporters, these animals were confiscated and sent to Riyadh Zoo.
1995: IPPL uncovered a Pakistani gang that was smuggling endangered primates (including gorillas) from Nigeria to the Philippines. Sadly, a confiscated baby gorilla died, but two drills were returned to an IPPL-assisted primate sanctuary in Nigeria, run by the Pandrillus Foundation, for rehabilitation.
1996: IPPL ran a fundraising campaign for the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon, which houses gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys rescued from the trade in bush meat and pet primates. In addition, when Maui Zoo in Hawaii was closed down due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act, IPPL accepted three of the zoo’s gibbons who came to IPPL’s sanctuary.
1997: IPPL learned that hundreds of monkeys from Indonesia had reached Chicago Airport and that the shipments contained pregnant monkeys, nursing monkeys, and baby monkeys three to four weeks old, in violation of U.S. law. As a result of IPPL’s campaign, the company, its president, and two officials were indicted, and the company was fined $500,000.
1998: Among the rescued primates to arrive at Cameroon’s Limbe Wildlife Centre was Pitchou, an orphaned baby gorilla who was in appalling condition, her body covered with ringworm patches. IPPL raised over $35,000 to help the sanctuary care for Pitchou. She survived the trauma of her young life to become a healthy and happy adult member of her sanctuary’s gorilla family group.
1999: IPPL worked with the grassroots Indonesian animal protection group KSBK (now known as ProFauna Indonesia) to block the export of dozens of proboscis monkeys brutally poached from an Indonesian nature reserve and sent to Surabaya Zoo, where many of them died. Five of the surviving monkeys were returned to the wild.

2000s [17]
2000: IPPL investigated a shipment of 12 black-and-white Colobus monkeys smuggled from Tanzania to Thailand, where five of the monkeys died.
2001: IPPL organized an international protest over the drowning by Egyptian authorities of a baby gorilla and baby chimpanzee smuggled from Nigeria into Egypt. The babies were submerged in a vat of chemicals. IPPL’s protests led EgyptAir to ban further primate shipments.
2002: IPPL learned that four baby gorillas had reached Taiping Zoo, Malaysia, from Ibadan Zoo in Nigeria, on documents falsely claiming that the animals were captive-born. IPPL publicized the plight of these gorillas, whom we named the “Taiping Four,” which resulted in the confiscation of the gorillas by Malaysian authorities.
2003: IPPL provided information to a Nigerian Presidential panel investigating the illegal wildlife trade in that country in connection with the ongoing Taiping Four gorilla smuggling case. Prince Philip, husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, sent IPPL a letter congratulating IPPL on its 30th anniversary. He stated, “I can only hope that the League will continue to raise the funds needed to keep up, and hopefully increase, its good work in the future.”
2004: IPPL inspected a zoo on the 6 th and 7 th floors of a noisy department store in Thonburi, Thailand. Among the hundreds of animals kept there were gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons, and monkeys, all living in filth. A fire some years earlier had burned many captive animals there. IPPL started a campaign to close the facility.
2005: A baby orangutan was discovered at a pet shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by a Saudi lady who in turn informed IPPL. IPPL asked members to send protest letters to Saudi authorities, which resulted in the government confiscating the young ape.
2006: IPPL constructed new gibbon housing on five acres of newly-acquired land at Headquarters Sanctuary in South Carolina.
2007: IPPL celebrated the return of the Taiping Four gorillas to a sanctuary in their native Cameroon. IPPL had worked with various allies since 2002 to have the animals re-homed.
2008: IPPL Founder and Executive Director Shirley McGreal was presented with the Order of the British Empire “for services to the protection of primates” by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace.
2009: IPPL arranged to have a Nepalese mountaineer summit Mount Everest, where he unfurled a banner reading “Stop the Monkey Business! Don’t export Nepali monkeys to American labs.” Three months later, the Nepal government announced a decision to release 300 captive rhesus monkeys from an export facility and to maintain Nepal’s longstanding ban on exporting its native primates.

2010s [18]
2010: IPPL accepted a fragile, elderly female gibbon named Rosie for care at IPPL Headquarters Sanctuary in South Carolina, after she retired from a zoo. She had been born in the wild and may well have been among the animals shipped to a California lab that was importing smuggled gibbons in the late 1970s, a case that IPPL investigated.
2011: IPPL had been collaborating with Wildlife Watch Group in Nepal since 2006 on protecting that country’s native rhesus monkeys. After great success in putting a halt to two proposed “monkey farms,” WWG unveiled plans to establish Nepal’s first-ever wildlife sanctuary, to be named in honor of IPPL’s founder, Shirley McGreal.
2012: IPPL celebrated the 25th anniversary of the arrival of former lab gibbon, Igor, to IPPL’s Headquarters Sanctuary. He had previously spent 26 years in research, where he had acquired the habit of biting himself whenever he caught sight of another gibbon. As a result, he had to live behind black Plexiglas. Since coming to IPPL, he has not bitten himself once.
2013: In November we learned that the new Malaysian Minister for Natural Resources and Environment had suspended the massive culling of his nation’s monkeys, a program that had already claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 wild macaques, after he received petition signatures gathered by IPPL. In addition, to mark IPPL’s 40th anniversary year, IPPL invited three orangutan advocates to give a free public lecture in downtown Charleston as part of the “Hang Out for Orangutans” World Tour.


  1. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ "IPPL - Current News". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Daily Telegraph Obituaries - Cyril Rosen". Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  5. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  6. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  7. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  8. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  9. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  10. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  11. ^ "IPPL Newsletters". IPPL. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  12. ^ "IPPL Newsletters". IPPL. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  13. ^ "IPPL - About Us". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  14. ^ "IPPL - Current News - 1970s". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  15. ^ "IPPL - Current News - 1980s". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  16. ^ "IPPL - Current News - 1990s". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  17. ^ "IPPL - Current News - 2000s". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  18. ^ "IPPL - Current News - 2010s". Retrieved 16 September 2019.

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