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Cages with transgenic mice

Cages containing Javier Castro Hernández's transgenic mice after their arrival on Gran Canaria. The animals had been held up in Madrid for months.

Javier Castro Hernandez

Spanish military flies lab animals to Canary Islands after airlines refuse to take them on board

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Twenty-nine transgenic mice that two Spanish airlines had refused to transport hitched a ride to the Canary Islands on a military plane Friday and are now at their final destination, the University of La Laguna on Tenerife in Spain. The mice, bred in the United States, had been stranded in Madrid for 2 months because Iberia and Air Europa have stopped shipping laboratory animals.

The military aircraft left Madrid early Friday morning and flew the mice to the Gando Air Base on Gran Canaria. From there, a shipping company ferried the animals in a 90-minute sea journey to the island of Tenerife, where they were delivered at the only animal facility on the island at 5:30 p.m. local time. The university had negotiated the solution with the military. “We feel relieved after these 2 months, which have been very stressful,” says Javier Castro Hernández, a postdoc at the University Hospital of the Canary Islands who had ordered the animals and who recently sounded the alarm about the airlines' decision. Castro says he looks forward to continuing his research project.

But a permanent solution must still be found, Castro Hernández says. The University of La Laguna and the Spanish civil aviation authority are still trying to work out a deal with various carriers. But “the airlines continue to delay giving their answer,” Castro says. “So … the blockade still persists for now.”