WHAT’S TO BECOME OF A BARREL OF MONKEYS?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:
MADISON, Wisconsin––Virginia Hinshaw, dean
of graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison,
on February 3 gave Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk until
March 2 to find a way to keep 100 rhesus macaques and 50
stump-tailed macaques at the Vilas Zoo, their longtime home.
The Vilas Zoo has long housed the macaques under
contract to the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center,
funded by the National Institutes of Health. American Zoo
Association policy has discouraged the use of zoo animals in
research since 1986, but the Vilas Zoo arrangement, dating to
1963, predated the policy.
The macaque colonies are descended from those who
provided subjects for the notorious isolation experiments of the
late Harry Harlow, who moved his work to the University of
Arizona in 1971 and died in 1981. They are the oldest stable
breeding colonies of macaques in captivity. About 1,300 kin
are at separate facilities on the university campus.
University of Wisconsin officials in 1989 and 1990
assured Vilas Zoo director David Hall in letters disclosed by the
International Primate Protection League that the macaques
would never again be used for invasive research. However,
Hinshaw acknowledged in August 1997, 39 macaques from the
colonies were subsequently killed in terminal research, 26 were
killed to obtain tissue samples, and 110 were sold or traded to
other research institutions to use as they wished.
Already jeopardized by NIH budget cuts, the Vilas
Zoo macaque colonies faced termination in October 1997 when
the NIH told the university that it could not use part of a $4.5
million grant to continue maintaining them, at cost of $30,000
per year for food and $70,000 for care and upkeep, because
insufficient research was being done on the macaques to warrant
Falk had asked for 45 days, not 30, to seek funding
to keep at least one macacque colony at the Vilas Zoo.
“We need a definitive commitment,” responded
Hinshaw. “There’s nothing to be gained if I keep delaying this,
if I can’t get that commitment.”
Hinshaw reportedly had planned to move the
macaques within days. The rhesuses were to go to the
Louisiana Regional Primate Research Center at Tulane
University, and the stump-tails, an endangered species, to the
Wild Animal Rescue Foundation sanctuary in Thailand, their
ancestral home. The 200-acre Thai sanctuary already houses
about 400 stump-tails and gibbons, Wisconsin Regional
Primate Research Center interim director Joe Kemnitz said.
Directed by noted Thai primate rescuer Leonie
Vejjajiva, the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation was formed in
1992 by filmmaker and zoologist Terrance Dillon Morin, who
died three years later, and is home of the Gibbon Rehabilitation
Project, whose caging is funded by IPPL.
IPPL sounded a public alarm against the proposed
transfer of the macaque colonies in early 1997, when Procter &
Gamble reportedly sought to buy the stump-tails for use in testing
hair growth products. P&G withdrew when the deal
became controversial. IPPL and allies have subsequently concentrated
on keeping the rhesuses from going to Tulane.
The Wisconsin Alliance for Animals and Washington
D.C.-area primate advocate Linda Howard on January 19 coordinated
protests in Madison and at the NIH offices in Bethesda,
Maryland, after Dane County judge Patrick Fiedler on January
8 rejected a suit brought by Wisconsin Regional Primate
Research Center scientist Kim Bauers. Bauers held that
because the macaques are members of endangered and threatened
species, they could not be relocated without an environmental
Although keeping the macaques at the Vilas Zoo
seems to be the option preferred by activists, Hall and Falk
were skeptical in January because of the December 10 death of
Elizabeth R. Griffin, 22, six weeks after she contracted the
herpes B virus from a droplet of spittle that hit her eye as she
helped to move the cage of an infected rhesus macaque at the
Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, maintained by
Emory University in Atlanta.
Griffin, of Kingsport, Georgia, was only the 40th
human known to have contracted herpes B, which is common
but not often deadly in macaques, and was the first infected by
spittle via the eye. Of the 40 human victims, 29 died.
Ohio State University Primate Research Center
designer Diane McClure was splashed in the eye while examining
a dead macaque shortly after Griffin died, and Yerkes
researcher Nancy Edmonds, 41, was treated in late December
after an incident similar to the one that infected Griffin.
Neither McClure nor Edmonds contracted herpes B, but the
incidents alarmed primate keepers around the world.
“It does definitely make a significant impact,” Hall
said. “My personal opinion is that macaques are probably not
an appropriate species to have at the zoo given the developments
about the herpes B virus.”
Added Helene Nelson, Falk’s chief of staff, “It
seems unwise to retain the monkey exhibit.”
The Vilas Zoo case exemplifies pressures tugging
custodians of unused “research” primates in opposite directions.
Just a few months ago, researchers seemed to be losing interest
in work using nonhuman primates, with many extensive collections
up for sale. Recent discoveries, however, have some
institutions rethinking their plans.
Most sensationally, Biotime Inc., of California,
recently announced that it had successfully frozen and thawed
baboons after replacing their blood with a synthetic plasma.
The experiment was heralded as introducing the possibilities of
interstellar space travel using astronauts in suspended animation,
a longtime theme of science fiction, and of freezing critically
injured or ill victims of accidents, disease, or warfare for
National Human Genome Research Project investigator
Richard Morgan in the February edition of Nature Medicine
reported that genetic modification of the simian immunodeficiency
virus to make it less virulent seemed to work in three
rhesus macaques, a potential breakthrough in fighting AIDS.
And, in a find of acknowledged socio-political
weight, Mount Sinai School of Medicine neurobiologist
Patrick J. Gannon located a neural structure in 18 preserved
chimpanzee brains that in humans is linked to the ability to
understand language. No other species are known to have it.
The discovery narrows the already slim species differentiation
between humans and chimps.
Even before the Biotime, gene therapy, and brain
structure discoveries were announced, a panel assembled by
the Royal Society of Canada to review the maintenance of 788
longtailed macaques by Health Canada at Tunney’s Pasture in
Ottawa recommended in November 1997 against disposing of
them––if the government of Canada could be persuaded to fork
over the funding necessary to keep them in humane conditions.
Reported the panel, “The loss of the colony would
constitute an irreversible loss of the capacity to respond” to an
emergency such as “the onset of a new or re-emergent highly
But the panel was quite critical of conditions at
Tunney’s Pasture, where the longtails have been kept since
they came from the Philippines in 1983. The panel insisted that
any longtails not needed for research should be placed in sanctuaries.
The panel called for reducing the Tunney’s Pasture population
to 400, to make more space available for the longtails;
for making more use of group housing; for doing away with
keeping individual male longtails in small cages; and for halting
breeding within the colony. The panel termed killing the
macaques “ethically unacceptable.” Selling them, it said,
would be “irresponsible.”
The Royal Society panel recommended of a separate
148-member macaque colony used in toxicology research that
those not suffering from irrecoverable ailments should also be
placed in permanent sanctuary, while any who are ill should be
euthanized. Health Canada had planned to kill the lot.
The Royal Society recommendations for Tunney’s
Pasture alone would cost an estimated $4 million U.S. for new
facilities and $720,000 a year in operational expense.
Health minister Alan Rock deferred response.
Rock and Health Canada were embarrassed in
October 1997 when a December 1996 report on animal care at
Tunney’s Pasture was leaked to the Ottawa Citizen. Reviewing
the treatment of 8,000 to 11,000 animals, mostly mice and rabbits,
the Canadian Council on Animal Care found mice dying
unattended of botulism; improperly caged rats and rabbits;
mice left to suffer with large tumors; mice checked by technicians
only once a week; and researchers who allegedly often
misreported the pain and suffering their animals endured.
Primate researcher Deborah Rice reportedly refused
to meet with the CCAC panel. Her isolation and deprivation
work on 62 macaques who suffer from induced heavy metal
poisoning have often been protested by the Animal Alliance of
Canada, and were topic of an October 5, 1997 page one
expose by Ottawa Citizen reporter Donna Jacobs.
Currently there is only one sanctuary in Canada for
retired research primates: the Fauna Foundation, near
Chambly, Quebec, formed by Gloria Grow and veterinarian
Richard Allan with support from the Jane Goodall Institute of
Canada to maintain 12 chimpanzees who formerly belonged to
the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery In
Primates at New York University. Founded and run for 31
years by Jan Moor-Jankowski, LEMSIP was closed and MoorJankowski
dismissed in 1995, after he exposed abusive conditions
in a separate NYU primate laboratory run by addiction
researcher Ronald Wood. Moor-Jankowski is now pursuing a
whistleblower lawsuit against NYU. Most of the 225 LEMSIP
chimps were transfered to the New Mexico-based Coulston
Foundation, set up by primate researcher Frederick Coulston to
supply chimps to laboratories. Sixteen other LEMSIP chimps,
awaiting retirement in temporary custody of the Buckshire
Corporation, ended up at Primarily Primates, near San
The fate of the LEMSIP chimps parallels that of 144
chimps belonging to the U.S. Air Force, housed at Holloman
Air Force Base near White Sands, New Mexico, under
Coulston Foundation management. The Air Force hasn’t used
the chimps in more than 20 years, but had leased some for
research by other institutions. Congress in 1995 ordered the
Air Force to dispose of the colony via competitive bidding.
The Coulston Foundation has sought to keep the chimps.
Various animal protection organizations have also
expressed interest in obtaining them, but finding adequate
funding has proved difficult––not least, In Defense of Animals
research director Eric Kleiman recently told New Scientist
reporter Philip Cohen, because the Coulston Foundation and
USAF have withheld critical information. “We’re being asked
to raise millions of dollars for animals we’ve never seen and
know nothing about,” Kleiman said.
Animal rights groups have long cherished the notion
that ex-research primates might eventually return to their native
habitat, along with others liberated from illegal traffickers,
substandard zoos, and improper keeping as pets.
Until recently, however, the only even semi-successful
restoration of primates to the wild was the release of zoobred
golden lion tamarins in coastal Brazil, begun in
1987––and barely half of them survived for long. An experimental
chimpanzee rehabilitation compound set up in Liberia
by Friends of Animals in 1990 became an early casuality of the
Liberian civil war within less than a year.
However, six baboons formerly used in asbestos
research have reportedly thrived since November 1996 in seminatural
conditions at the Center for Animal Rehabilitation and
Education in Phalaborwa, South Africa.
An even more hopeful development was the rapid
adaption to the wild of five black-and-white ruffed lemurs who
were raised at the Duke University Primate Center in Durham,
North Carolina, taken to their ancestral home in Madagascar,
and turned loose in October 1997 in an effort to bolster the wild
stock within the Betampona Reserve. The release was sponsored
by the Madagascar Fauna Group, chaired by San
Francisco Zoo director David Anderson, and funded in part by
British comic actor John Cleese, who donated the $80,000
profits from his film Fierce Creatures to three Madagascar
Fauna Group zoos. The Jersey Zoo, founded by the late Gerald
Durrell, added an additional $35,000. The lemurs learned to
forage for wild food within days, and by December were
engaging in mating behavior with wild counterparts.
Black-and-white ruffed lemurs, a highly endangered
species, are not used in biomedical research, but are behaviorally
similar to some primate species who are used.