Primates freed for World Week
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2001:
CAPE TOWN, NEW ORLEANS, AMSTERDAM, SAN ANTONIO, PORTLAND
(Ore.)–April 25 brought freedom for the luckiest four of 14 baboons
who were rescued from neglect in October 2000 at the Centre Africain
Primatologie Experimentale in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
Seized under a warrant obtained by the Centre for Animal
Rehabilitation and Education, the four adult male baboons were
released into a private reserve in the Waterberg district of Northern
The CAPE laboratory formerly did chemical and biological
experiments for the South African Defense Force, but in recent years
reportedly furnished 60 to 70 baboons per year to the French military
for use in nuclear weapons tests.
World Week for Animals in Labora-tories also brought freedom
from lab use for two baby chimpanzees in the U.S., plus the
recommendation of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences that the 112
chimps housed at the Dutch Biomedical Primate Research Center in
Rijswijk should be retired.
The week also brought allegations of internal sabotage at the
Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, followed closely by a
positive report on the facility after a four-day visit from agents of
the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Also during World Week, a grassroots organization called
Floridans Respectful of the Environment and Ecosystems surfaced to
oppose the location of a proposed monkey breeding colony in Hendry
County, Florida– mainly on environmental grounds. Humane issues
were raised a few days later by the Animal Rights Foundation of
Independent activist Linda Howard told ANIMAL PEOPLE that the
proposed Hendry County breeding colony is apparently a joint project
of the Mannheimer Foundation and Primate Products, a company owned
by one Paul Houghton, which sells primate restraint devices and
already owns two other monkey breeding colonies. Howard said her
information is that the Hendry County facility will house up to 5,000
cynomolgus macaques, imported from a colony Houghton reportedly has
on an Indonesian island.
As well as housing and breeding macaques, the Hendry County
facility is expected to do contract product testing.
Houghton may be concerned, Howard speculated, that
importing primates from Indonesia may soon become more difficult as
result of clamor raised by the Inter-national Primate Protection
League as the statute of limitations approaches for prosecuting the
illegal importers of 20 baby monkeys among a lot of 253 flown to the
U.S. from Indonesia by way of Paris in May 1997.
The monkeys were sold to LABS of Virginia. Documents filed
in connection with a lawsuit against LABS by two former employees,
obtained by IPPL, indicate that both the sender and the receiver
knew that the shipment included babies, some of whom died in transit.
A World Week surprise was a message posted to the Bushmeat
Awareness Group electronic bulletin board by Tulane University
primate researcher Robert Gormus, expressing regret that a colony
of 49 wild-captured sooty mangebys he captured in Africa for leprosy
research more than a decade ago, along with 35 he purchased from the
Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, were dispersed
into the exotic pet trade.
This occurred a year after the National Institutes of Health
withdrew funding for the leprosy study, which never began because
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled–after the mangebys were
imported– that endangered status precluded their use.
Gormus disclosed that in October 1994, in correspondence to
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “I expressed concern for the
safety of the mangebys because we had learned too late that one of
the recipients, Jim Fouts of Tanzanyika Wildlife in Wichita,
Kansas, had a questionable reputation.”
Fouts reportedly received 22 breeding pairs of mangebys. Ten
pairs were sold only two days later to Wisconsin wildlife broker Mark
“The other mangeby recipient was Brad Reynolds from the
Grindstone Valley Zoo, in Chatham, Illinois,” Gormus continued.
Reynolds received 16 mangebys.
“Contrary to popular opinion,” Gormus asserted, “I have had
many a sleepless night because of these beautful animals. I think
the Fish and Wildlife Service dropped the ball,” after promising
that the fate of the mangebys would be monitored, and “should seize
the mangebys they can find and place them in an appropriate zoo. I
will be their star witness in court, if it comes to that,” he
pledged. Gormus said he had identified one of the mangebys in
possession of primate dealer Dean Olinger, and two others at the Zoo
of Acadiana, near Lafayette, Louisiana.
“It appears that Jim Fouts wasted no time going bad on his
agreement to keep the group intact and use them only for breeding and
authorized exhibition,” Gormus charged. “I think he may be open to
prosecution for violating our written agreement.”
Most of the factual content of Gormus’ message was disclosed
by Deborah Blum in her Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated newspaper
feature The Monkey Wars (1992) and book of the same title (1994).
The part raising a buzz on the Internet was that a primate researcher
who was himself once a primary target of activism, working at an
institution known for hostile relations with activists, had
apparently turned to the activist community for help on behalf of the
very animals he had planned to subject to a devastating disease,
after arranging their capture at frequent cost of the annihilation of
Many activists were alert to the possibility of a ruse,
after the so-called Chimp Retirement Act passed in the last days of
the 106th Congress in late 2000 freed no chimps from the control of
the biomedical research community, and apparently only allowed
researchers to “retire” old and diseased chimps to longterm holding
facilities while breeding replacements–exactly as Linda Howard
warned would happen even as most major animal advocacy groups helped
to push the bill through despite disabling amendments.
Howard obtained copies of NIH grant proposals in early
February, that detail the plans to start breeding colonies of chimps
at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop,
Texas, and the Primate Foundation of Arizona, in Mesa.
The Bastrop information came to Howard a few days after a
January 27 thermostat malfunction on a newly installed heater baked
to death 42 of the 800 resident rhesus macaques. Instead of turning
off when the laboratory temperature reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit,
the heater pushed the temperature on up to 125 degrees.
“The 186 chimpanzees dedicated to the Bastrop project may be
some of the chimps that the NIH is taking away from the Coulston
Foundation,” of Alamogordo, New Mexico, Howard speculated. In May
2000, as Coulston reportedly approached bankruptcy, the NIH
reclaimed responsibility for the upkeep of 288 chimps, which also
enabled Coulston to comply with an August 1999 agreement to divest of
300, in settlement of alleged repeated violations of Animal Welfare
Act housing standards.
In constant economic and regulatory trouble for almost a
decade, Coulston was hit again in January 2001, this time for more
than a dozen alleged serious violations of Occupational Safety and
Health Administ-ration regulations. In Defense of Animals and Animal
Protection of New Mexico celebrated the OSHA citations with a protest
attended by actress Ali MacGraw.
Coulston in 1998 released to the Primarily Primates
sanctuary, of San Antonio, Texas, 30 chimpanzees who were formerly
part of the disbanded NASA colony. Although Couston Foundation
president Frederick Coulston has not been friendly with other animal
defenders, he subsequently released four more chimps to Primarily
Primates, and then on April 19 donated two infant chimps: Samuel,
11 months, and Champ, eight months. Like two other infant chimps
donated by Coulston in past years, they will be hand-raised by
Primarily Primates president Wally Swett, who will gradually
integrate them into the resident colony of more than 75.
The fate of the 112 chimps at the Dutch Biomedical Primate
Research Center in Rijswijk will eventually be decided by the Dutch
Education Ministry, which owns legal title to them. A
pro-retirement campaign pushed for several years by the Coalition to
End Experiments on Chimpanzees in Europe, the Great Ape Project,
and the World Society for the Protection of Animals gained momentum
recently with the endorsements of primatologist Jane Goodall,
wildlife filmmaker David Attenborough, and animal behavior
researcher Desmond Morris.
Said Goodall, “Even for those few scientists who believe
that the use of apes and monkeys advances medical knowledge, the
conditions in which the animals at the Biomedical Primate Research
Center are kept are morally unacceptable.”
Added Attenborough, “I am in favor of a European ban on the
use of apes in invasive medical research.”
Some of the Dutch chimps were used in AIDS-related
experimentation some years ago, reportedly involving British
researchers who have been barred from conducting experiments on apes
within Britain since 1997. Dutch researchers have stated, however,
that the colony is useful only in ongoing studies of the hepatitis-C
virus–and is redundant even in that use.
The Biomedical Primate Research Center also has a colony of
about 1,000 rhesus macaques.
The allegations of sabotage at the Oregon Regional Primate
Research Center, in Hillsboro, Oregon, investigated during World
Week for Animals in Laboratories, were just the latest of a series
of flaps involving the facility that began when PETA undercover
operative Matt Rossell denounced alleged psychological neglect of the
animals there in August 2000. Rossell had worked for two years at
the center as a primate care tech.
Oregon Health Sciences University, responsible for the
center and the 2,500 primates kept there, hired pathology and
psychology professor Carol Shively, of Wake Forest Univer-sity in
Raleigh, North Carolina, to assess Rossell’s charges. Shively
essentially upheld Rossell’s complaints, according to WW News
reporter Philip Dawdy, who got the Shively report in March 2001
after three months of legal skirmishing to force Oregon Health
Sciences University to comply with the state public records
disclosure act. Shively and Rossell were both especially critical of
the use of an obsolete electro-ejaculation method of collecting sperm
from male monkeys.
“I’ve been around primate centers for almost 20 years and
have seen a lot, but I was shaken and upset,” Shively wrote.
The USDA in January cleared the Oregon Regional Primate
Research Center of allegations of serious wrongdoing, but the fracas
continued and expanded into another state when on February 15 the
University of Washington introduced Stephen Kelley, DVM, as new
head vet at the Washington Regional Primate Center.
“Kelley was placed on probation by the Oregon Regional
Primate Research Center last year,” Rossell told media, “after a
petition signed by 26 animal care technicians claimed the center’s
management style created ‘a crisis-oriented work environment that
cripples our ability to provide quality care.’ Kelley eventually
resigned. Kelley told me,” Rossell continued, “that I needed to
prove that feeding fruit to the monkeys would benefit their
well-being before he would agree to spend the extra money. The USDA
recently recommended that the Oregon monkeys should be given fruit
and vegetables daily.”
Meanwhile, as the ongoing controversy overshadowed the
January 11 announcement of center researchers that they had bred the
first genetically engineered monkey, a rhesus macaque bearing a
glow-in-the-dark gene from a jellyfish, the Oregon center moved to
rid itself of another public relations liability.
“Twenty-two capuchin monkeys who were injected with
psychotropic drugs and lingered alone for up to 30 years in tiny
cages have been released,” Rossell announced on March 12, three
weeks after 13 capuchins were sent to the Austin Zoo, in Texas, and
nine went to the Richmond Zoo, in Virginia.
The Austin group, reported Janet Jacobs of the
American-Statesman, arrived with “muscles atrophied from decades in
small cages, with bald patches in their fur and numbers tattooed on
their chests,” barely remembering how to climb. But the Austin Zoo
has successfully rehabilitated other capuchins who arrived from labs
in similar shape.
In Defense of Animals has recently amplified similar
allegations pertaining to monkey care by University of California at
San Francisco researcher Steve Lisberger. A USDA inspection on
October 27, 2000 cited Lisberger “for a host of violations related
to water deprivation,” IDA charged.
The monkeys, according to an anonymous inside source said to
be relaying information through IDA, “are subjected to as many as
nine survival brain surgeries during which various devices are
implanted in their eyes, skulls, and brains. The monkeys are
immobilized with their heads bolted in restraint chairs up to eight
hours a day for as long as seven consecutive days while they are
rotated on turntables. They have eyeglasses cemented to their faces
to distort their vision for up to 12 weeks at a time. Singly housed
and kept on a chain leash 24 hours a day, these monkeys are deprived
of water to motivate them to perform tasks. Monkeys who do not
perform are subject to stern reinforcement, meaning that they are
severely fluid-restricted for up to 12 days.”
IDA said Lisberger brings UCSF more than $1 million a year in
Use is up
Releasing some “used” nonhuman primates from experimentation
as a public relations gesture seems to have growing panache among
biomedical researchers, worldwide. The first such release reported
to ANIMAL PEOPLE from Israel, for instance, came in September 2000,
when the Tel-Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv acceded to 13 years of
requests from Andre Menache, DVM, and sent two green vervets name
Miki and Gili to live temporarily at the home of Bernard Horovits,
MD, pending construction of a primate retirement sanctuary planned
by the Israeli Society for the Abolition of Vivisection, on property
donated by Ron Ram, DVM. Miki and Gili were the last survivors of a
colony of 20 begun at the hospital in 1987.
However, after years of apparent decline, global use of
nonhuman primates in experimentation appears to be rising again.
The Emory University Vaccine Center and the pharmaceutical
manufacturer Merck & Co. announced in March and April 2001 that they
have developed a vaccine which appears to protect monkeys against
developing serious infection from an especially virulent form of
simian immunodeficiency virus [SIV], a close cousin to AIDS.
Whether or not the finding actually leads to an effective
response to AIDS, it may stimulate renewed interest in primate
research among investigators who had tentatively concluded from 20
years of frustration that such studies were going nowhere.
Primate research also fell from vogue, for a time, due to
growing concern about viruses–including AIDS and ebola– which have
jumped from nonhuman primates into humans with lethal effect. Some
of the jumps have involved biomedical research– and not just through
researchers handling diseased wild-caught animals.
Several investigators have suggested since 1992, for
instance, that a mutated form of SIV that become AIDS first infected
humans via tests of an oral polio vaccine cultivated in the kidneys
of macaques, tested in the Congo during the late 1950s by
researchers Hilary Kopowski and Stanley Plotkin.
This theory was refuted in papers published by the journals
Science and Nature in their April 2001 editions.
But as the refutations circulated, the National Institutes
of Health convened a conference in Chicago to discuss the 1994
finding of mesothelioma researcher Michele Carbone that genetic
material from a monkey virus called SV40 appears in about 60% of the
tumors caused by a rare asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma was first medically identified in 1946. There are now
2,000 to 3,000 cases diagnosed per year– and the disease in
inevitably fatal. SV40, meanwhile, was found in some contaminated
polio vaccines during the 1950s. As many as 100 million Americans
may have been exposed, but SV40 is apparently dangerous only if a
person is genetically susceptible to mesothelioma and at some point
has intensive exposure to asbestos dust. Somehow, by an unknown
mechanism, the virus, genetics, and asbestos interact.
The risks of primate experimentation result from the same
factor that attracts researchers to it: the physical similarities of
nonhuman primates and humans.
And the biggest inhibiting factor in recent years may have
been a simple matter of supply-and-demand. Activism on behalf of
animals used in labs and endangered wildlife complicated the business
of importing wild-caught monkeys into the U.S. during the past
several decades. U.S. animal dealers were slow to develop
significant nonhuman primate breeding colonies, in part because they
would have had to compete with the federally funded regional primate
research centers, while nations which had abundant monkeys rarely
had advanced research facilities.
Dealers are setting up major U.S. breeding colonies now–as
in Hendry County, Florida–and much of the underdeveloped world is
taking advantage of the opportunity to host animal research labs
whose work is no longer well-accepted in the U.S., Europe,
Australia, and New Zealand.
Labs in South Africa, for instance, are reportedly eager to
take over animal testing for British pharamaceutical and personal
care product makers, should activists succeed in permanently closing
Huntington Laboratories, the last major private testing lab in
Sisters Carla and Gina Walsh, 17 and 19, of Johannesburg,
attracted national attention during World Week for Animals in
Laboratories by handcuffing themselves to poles outside Wits
University–but their protest drew note in part because
anti-vivisectionism has historically not had a high profile in South
Africa, while as Ufrieda Ho of the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian
summarized, “The number of animal experiments in South Africa is
anybody’s guess. South African vivisectors are left to police
themselves, and are governed by a voluntary code of ethics.”
South African Association for Laboratory Animal Scientists
vice president Daan Goosen acknowledged to Ho that he is “often
approached by scientists from abroad who want unscrupulous testing
performed in South Africa because the work would be illegal in their
India has laboratory inspection requirements and animal care
standards comparable to those of the U.S., on paper, with
provisions for enforcement by animal advocacy groups. But the
difficult of achieving compliance amid ubiquitous poverty and
corruption was underscored during World Week for Animals in
Laboratories by disclosure of a report by Committee for the Purpose
of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals inspector
Camellia Satija about the care of the 172 monkeys kept at the
All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. The committee
operates within the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,
headed by People for Animals founder and Member of Parliament Maneka
“A regular practice is to feed and provide water to the
monkeys on Saturday afternoon and then leave them unattended until
Monday morning, with only a hurried feed on Sunday noon,” Satija
wrote. “Conditions on weekdays are no better–monkeys have to make
do on much less than is needed to meet their dietary requirements.
While it is mandatory to clean the cages twice a day,” Satija
continued, “surprise inspection has proved that this is seldom done.
The monkeys are forced to stay in filthy cages for months on end in
rooms which lack adequate ventilation.”
The monkeys in Indian labs are often captured after making
nuisances of themselves on city streets. Delhi reportedly built a
sanctuary for nuisance monkeys in 1999, but no monkeys have ever
been taken there, ostensibly because it has not yet been properly
inspected. There is some suspicion that city nuisance animal
catchers simply prefer to sell any monkeys they get. People For
Animals is now building a private monkey rescue center at Sultanpur,
about 90 miles away, and will send out their own monkey-catchers in
response to public complaints.
Many other nations have no animal welfare regulation or
inspection requirements relevant to laboratory monkey-business–yet
claim to have monkey surpluses.
In Japan, for example, which has virtually no humane
infrastructure but a booming research industry, a survey by the
advocacy group All Life In a Viable Environment reported in January
2001 that in fiscal 1999, 497 municipalitis in 41 prefectures
captured and “disposed of” 10,161 monkeys.
“Municipalities in Kyoto and Wakayama prefectures beat
monkeys to death, while those in Fukushima and Aichi prefectures
starved them,” Japan Times summarized. “Cties in five prefectures
sold or gave monkeys to brokers and research institutes.”
On the far side of the world, the government of the
Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis offered a bounty of
$20 a head to encourage residents to capture feral vervets–and tried
to encourage expansion of the two primate research facilities that
brought the vervets’ ancestors to the islands in 1972.
And near Lajas, Puerto Rico, a feral colony of about 2,000
rhesus macaques descended from escaped lab specimens has local
politicians talking to news media about the potential profits to be
made by removing them from truck farmers’ gardens and selling them
back to labs. Puerto Rico does not presently have any labs that use
nonhuman primates in high numbers. But soon it could.