Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vilas Monkeys in the News

The history of the University of Wisconsin, Madison Primate Research Center is somewhat unusual. Harry Harlow, was instrumental in the creation of the Primate Research Center system and when Wisconsin received its initial grant he demanded that part of the money be used to build a monkey holding facility and exhibit at Madison's Henry Vilas Zoo.

Over the years, as the public got to know the 150 or so monkeys housed there, two rhesus macaque colonies and a stump-tailed macaque colony, concerns about the use of the monkeys in the university labs escalated and resulted in a written agreement signed by the primate center director and animal-care staff promising that the monkeys at the zoo would no longer be used in any harmful experiments.

Over about 8 years time there were three (probably four) written agreements that the Vilas monkeys were off limits to harmful experimentation. In 1997, documents were leaked that demonstrated in trumps that within weeks of the first written promise that the university had started again using the monkeys in its own labs and selling them to labs around the county.

(For much more about all of this, just search this blog. In 2009, Joseph Kemnitz, the Primate Center Director and acting-Director when the Vilas scandal was at it's peek in the news in 1998, told a reporter from a campus newspaper that the Primate Center had never entered into such an agreement. Unbelievable. What absolute unabashed liars these people are.)

The stump-tailed macaques ended up being sent to the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio, an irony-filled event. Primate Center staff set themselves up as overseers of WAO's program to rescue ex-lab monkeys. They did this, in my opinion, to shield themselves from the criticism that they were dumping the monkeys at a facility they had previously branded a roadside zoo when they stridently argued before the Dane County Board of Supervisors that it would be grossly irresponsible and unethical to send the rhesus monkeys there. (They thought it more ethical to send them to the Tulane Primate Center where they were infected with various tropical diseases and then killed.)

As public scrutiny of the situation died down (I moved the Bay Area), the primate center staff abandoned their involvement with WAO. WAO began experiencing various difficulties, all too common with sanctuaries housing hundreds of animals, and as a result, the care of the animals was compromised.

The Vilas stump-tailed monkeys started dying from exposure to the elements, poor quality food, and lack of adequate veterinary care when they became ill. The university did nothing to help.

The situation worsened; more animals died. USDA finally intervened. Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) Board of Directors unanimously voted on August 31, 2010, to dissolve the organization and relocate all the animals. The university stood by doing nothing.

A recent press release from Born Free, the current operators of the Texas Snow Monkey Sanctuary, announced that they have provided homes for the remaining stump-tailed macaques from WAO, some of whom are the monkeys abandoned by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

It is additionally ironic that Primate Center staff continue to claim in public that they care about the monkeys under their control.

See: 112 monkeys, baboon to get new home after bankruptcy
They 'would otherwise likely be euthanized,' Born Free USA says of transfer
msnbc.com
updated 11/21/2011

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