The Great Animal Migration

Why did the chicken cross the road?chicken_cross_road

Why is there a mouse in my house?

Where did the sheep go on vacation?

Have you ever pondered these important questions? Most animals never venture far from where they grew up. Some participate in migrations with others of their kind, maybe to search for food, raise their young, or throw themselves off a cliff. Research animals can come from a variety of sources. Some are acquired from the wild, and some are donated. After their scientific usefulness, a portion are adopted, released, or retire from service.   However, most are purpose-bred, and begin and end their lives inside an animal facility.

To support collaboration, research animals are transferred between colleagues around the world. This is done for economic, expediency, and regulatory reasons. Rare animals, including those that are genetically and or phenotypically unique such as knockouts, knockins, transgenics, or otherwise special, are exceeding difficult and expensive to find or create. There is a “NIH Policy on Sharing of Model Organisms for Biomedical Research” published in 2004 that describes how animal sharing plans are now required.

These animals, common or not, need a way to get around to the places we need. Specialty couriers transport animals over long distances. One of these is Lufthansa Airlines, which runs the Lufthansa Cargo Animal Lounge, in Frankfort, Germany and is entry point into the EU for animals. They care for animals that need to be shipped by air, including those that are sent for research use. The facility is over 43,000 sq feet, and handles between 110 – 150 million animals a year.  A dedicated handling and vet staff cares for the animals while in transit.

For those interested in the exciting world of animal transport regulations, you can visit the USDA’s National Agriculture Library Transportation webpage here.


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