Cotton-tops come to Primarily Primates

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:

SAN ANTONIO––The Primarily
Primates sanctuary north of San Antonio
has agreed to take in 156 cotton-top
tamarins, bred for colon cancer research at
the University of Tennessee Marmoset
Research Center in Oak Ridge but declared
surplus last year due to budget cuts.
More than 30,000 cotton-tops
were taken from the Columbian rainforest
during the 1960s and 1970s, but just 236
survive in zoos, along with under 100 at
other research facilities and fewer than
2,000 in their remaining wild habitat, much
diminished by logging and farming.

“In early 1997,” Stephen Rene
Tello and Laura Joan of Primarily Primates
recounted in a joint release, “Primarily
Primates accepted 26 of the Oak Ridge cotton-tops
and helped secure the placement of
the remaining 130 at another facility in
California. Then on April 15 we received
an urgent call from University of Tennessee
researcher Neal Clapp, who explained that
the cotton-tops were now literally being
evicted. He had only two weeks to place
the animals and prevent their destruction.
On April 22 the California facility stated it
was unable to accept the animals before the
deadline.” Primarily Primates then agreed
to accept the rest––and with them, an
obligation to raise $80,000 to build the necessary
housing. (Cash help is welcomed at
POB 207, San Antonio, TX 78291.)
The world pioneers in sheltering
former research primates, Primarily
Primates also maintains 14 ex-research
chimpanzees, accepted just last year, and
many other surplused ex-lab animals. But
as primate research winds down under a
combination of public pressure and fiscal
restraint, the need for such facilities far
outstrips the availability. Terminations of
primate experiments are now announced
often, including the April 22 NASA withdrawal
from the much-protested primate
experiments undertaken as part of the
BION space research partnership with
Russia, after the death of one of two monkeys
sent into space for two weeks last winter.
Both survived the flight, but one died
under post-flight anesthesia during an operation
to remove tissue samples.
Wildlife Waystation, a 160-acre
sanctuary on inheld land within the Angeles
National Forest, best known for taking in
exotic cats and bears, began handling lab
primate retirement cases in October 1995,
eventually taking 16 chimps and five
baboons from New York University.
Founder Martine Colette wanted to take 47
more chimps and the Oak Ridge cottontops,
too, but surveying errors placed part
of a new seven-acre chimp facility outside
the Wildlife Waystation property, and
redesign and reconstruction have boosted
the projected cost to 50% more than the
budgeted $500,000-plus. In mid-May
Colette tearfully announced that for the first
time in the 20-year history of the sanctuary
she had been forced to turn down animals.
Chimps, the biggest, strongest,
and most intelligent of the primates being
retired from research, are also the hardest
to place responsibly. The National Chimpanzee
Sanctuary, coordinated by Washington
D.C. attorney Michael McGehee, “is a
coalition of animal protection groups organized
to establish a national policy on
chimpanzee retirement and to set standards
for the sanctuaries that would care for
them,” Roger and Deborah Fouts of the
Chimpanzee and Human Communication
Institute at Central Washington University
explain in the current Psychologists for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals newsletter.
Once the project is defined, the coalition
hopes to be funded by Congress––but as the
Fouts acknowledge, “NCS has not yet
reached a consensus” even on “general procedures
and philosophy.” E.g., “Some
members feel that the sanctuaries should
breed chimpanzees and supply the infants
to the biomedical community. Others see
this as completely unacceptable.”
In the interim, the easy way out
for many labs is to sell or lease surplus
chimps to the Coulston Foundation, run by
Frederick Coulston, 82, who keeps as
many as 450 chimps and 800 macacques at
two sites in New Mexico, acquiring collections
from other users and brokers as they
leave the primate supply business.
Surplus primates are also becoming
available from Canada. The Health
Canada primate breeding center in Ottawa
recently sold 500 monkeys “in an effort to
bring the colony to a more manageable
size,” says the Canadian Federation of
Humane Societies, but about 720 cynomolgus
monkeys reportedly remain in small
steel cages, and budget cuts imposed April
1 may force the facility to close altogether.
A formerly popular alternative for
smaller primates was simply turning them
loose on an island or within a large fenced
enclosure, to lead a semi-wild life and be
recaptured as needed. This was the modus
o p e r a n d i for more than 20 years at Lois
Key and Raccoon Key, south of Florida,
where Charles River Laboratories maintained
as many as 1,200 rhesus macacques––but
Florida governor Lawton Chiles
on April 29 put muscle behind years of
warnings by authorizing state lawyers to
evict the macacques and Charles River, a
subsidiary of Bausch and Lomb, as an
environmental hazard.
As many as 600 Japanese macacques,
many of them descended from retired
research specimens, still roam freely at the
Southwest Texas Primate Observatory.
STPO, however, was forced to relocate to
larger quarters last year, with much more
secure fencing, by some of the same concerns
for public health and safety that
underlie the Florida Keys eviction. Unlike
the Florida macacques, some of whom
reputedly carry hepatitis-B, the STPO
macaques are apparently all healthy––but
nonhuman primates, once exposed, can
become immune carriers of some little
understood diseases that may kill people.
The risks involved in bringing
nonhuman primates from uncontrolled
environments into contact with humans are
also a factor in discouraging primate
research. The Ferlite Scientific Research
Farm in Calamba, the Philippines, was
forced to kill 600 monkeys and close in late
January, after killing 300 monkeys last
year failed to halt an outbreak of Reston
E b o l a virus found in two Ferlite monkeys
among a group sold to a Texas laboratory.
But the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases on April 29
announced perhaps the most promising lead
yet in the search for an AIDS cure: an
AIDS vaccine based on a genetically modified
edition of the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) which appears to have protected
chimps at Harvard and the University
of Pennsylvania against the simian immunodeficiency
virus (SIV). Research is underway
to find out if a weakened form of SIV
can protect humans from HIV.

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