Seven baby monkeys were accidentally poisoned and died in one of the largest primate research centers in the United States. Internal documents shared with the Guardian have revealed this.
The young macaques died after their mothers were labeled with dye at the University of California, Davis, a primate research lab.
Once united with their babies, the female macaques inadvertently transfer the dye, which turned out to be poisonous to them. Seven of the infants no older than a few weeks – one day old – subsequently died.
UC Davis reported the incidents to the federal authorities in April 2018. Further details were given in a letter sent a year later. In the latter document, UC Davis told the Federal Watchdog's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare that two infants were diagnosed as having "general weakness and shortness of breath" with dyes on their lips and tongues.
Both infants had "severe edema and swelling of the larynx and tongue" and died despite emergency treatment. The other deceased infants were either "found dead or euthanized on arrival at the hospital." All seven had some dye on their fur, skin, or mouth, which was likely to cause a fatal allergic reaction.
In response, UC Davis's Laboratory for Animal Welfare said that infants under the age of six months should not be labeled with dyes and that mothers and babies should be kept longer apart to minimize tag transmission. The correspondence was published in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
The tragedy is the latest hit for primate research at UC Davis, one of the largest in the country. The university claimed to have 4,200 primates, mainly rhesus monkeys, used for research into HIV / AIDS, Zika viruses and other infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, reproductive health, Alzheimer's disease and aging.
In 2016, it emerged that UC Davis was among nine government-funded research centers investigated for maltreatment of primates. In March of this year, a primate broke both legs after escaping through an unsecured door in the facility, and another primate was injured after a similar incident.
UC Davis has been targeted by animal rights activists for these incidents and an episode in 2005 in which seven monkeys died as a result of apparent heat exposure. The US Department of Agriculture then handed the university a fine of $ 4,815.
The recent deaths indicate that "seven infant rhesus monkeys aged one to 19 days were forcibly removed from their mothers, subjected to physical examination, tattooed, drawn blood, and subsequently labeled with a dye having irritating effects, reverted to their anesthetized and unresponsive Mothers, "said John Gluck, an academic and former primate researcher.
"How could it be that UC Davis does not consider that these intense stress-inducing experiences would not endanger these babies? Negligence is the word I would use. "
The New England Anti-Vivisection Society, which wants UC Davis and other institutions to reduce the number of primates used for research, has informed the USDA in writing that the university will be fined $ 70,000 for the death of baby monkeys.
"It's 2019 and we can no longer deny the science of showing that non-human primates like us are suffering and how we feel pain," said Mike Ryan, head of the group's government department.
"Invasive and deadly experiments on captive primates abused in cages their entire lives must come to an end."
The US government has restricted research on primates in recent years. The National Institutes of Health announced in 2015 that they would no longer fund biomedical research on chimpanzees. Some facilities, such as Harvard, have faced fierce public opposition to primacy testing and have discontinued their programs and sent their monkeys and monkeys to protected areas.
Tests on primates in the US, however, are far from complete. Last year, numbers were released showing close to 76,000 non-human primates in captivity for research purposes. Advocates of primate testing argue that it is vital to find new remedies for diseases that affect humans.
"We strive to provide the best possible care for the animals in our care," said a spokesperson for UC Davis, adding that many of the captive primates are housed in extended families, receiving regular medical examinations and living up to 38 years. Double the expected life in the wild.
UC Davis has typically used dyes to identify individual primates, but after the child's death, center staff changed procedures to stop staining monkeys under six months and take other measures to minimize color transfer.