Rhesus monkeys flip obsessively in circles and pace back and forth alone in their metal laboratory cages at a Georgia Regents University research facility.
Several of their tails and sides are bald and blood red from plucking out their own hair. Another “is so psychologically distressed”. That he cups his hands over his genitals and drinks his own urine.
The Humane Society of the United States alleged Friday that GRU is in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act for not addressing clear distress shown by the majority of the roughly 50 primates in its research facilities. While federal law requires research labs to house non-human primates in social groups with certain exceptions, the Humane Society said all but two of GRU’s rhesus macaques are being singly caged 24 hours a day with little to no enrichment.
Kathleen Conlee, the organization’s vice president for Animal Research Issues, said a Humane Society undercover investigator observed five primates housed at the Carl Sanders Research and Education building and 48 at GRU’s Gracewood Facility during a three-month investigation this year. Conlee provided video footage taken during that time to The Augusta Chronicle on Friday.
Conlee said none of the primates at Carl Sanders were rotated into an “enrichment cage”. With play activities. There is an outside enclosure at Gracewood, the investigator confirmed none were given time outside their cages, most of which are about 4-square feet in size.
GRU officials declined a request for comment on these specific allegations and instead released a statement.
Monkeys form a paraphyletic group that consist of a large number of mammals. There are 264 extant species that have a varied characteristics. Despite the large number of the various types, there are common features that enable them to be grouped in a single category.
Facts about General Characteristics Monkeys are social animals and they live in groups which are referred to as missions or tribes. They are mostly arboreal. Their habitat includes grasslands, forests, mountains and high plains. Their menu list is varied and mostly vegetarian, including fruits, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers, and eggs. They do sometimes eat small animals. They have a highly organized social order with strict hierarchy. Facts about Old World Monkeys Found all over Africa (other than the deserts) and in Asia (mainly in South Asia), Old world Monkeys are characterized by nostrils that are close to each other and point downward. Some of them lack tails. Those that have, have tails that are never prehensile. Most of them are arboreal (living on trees) with the exception of Baboon and Macaque species which are terrestrial. Adult Old World species have 32 teeth and many species have cheek pouches. Research reveals that they are more closely related to humans and apes than the New world species. Old World Monkeys are also referred to as true monkeys. Facts about New World Monkeys They are put under the class Platyrrhini as they have nostrils that are set wide apart on a flat nose and point outward. All the members are arboreal and have prehensile tails that they used to hang from branches and also to manipulate objects. They have 36 teeth, 4 more than their counterparts of the Old World and none of the species have cheek pouches. Amongst all the species of New World Monkeys, the Howler Monkey is the only one that is a folivore, meaning it specializes in eating leaves. Interesting and Random Facts Monkeys do not like to be 'petted' or 'cuddled' or in general subjected to any physical forms of affection by humans. Monkeys can...
“Research involving non-human primates is strictly regulated and those regulations are rigorously enforced to ensure humane treatment,”. According to the statement from Director of Media Relations Christen Carter. “Georgia Regents University is inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act are certainly a focus of those inspections.”.
The AWA permits lab primates to be housed singly if they're too aggressive and fight, if they've a contagious disease. If their participation in an active experiment requires them to be alone.
The Guide for the Care and Use of Animals, required for all federally funded projects, also states single housing should be the exception and animals should be alone for the shortest duration possible. It also states singly housed animals should've an opportunity for release into larger areas with additional enrichment.
During a Dec. 10 interview, Mark Hamrick, GRU senior vice president for research, said the majority of the GRU primates have been housed singly for most of their lives and became too aggressive during attempts to pair them.
“You can imagine just as in individuals who haven’t been around people before socially, when you try to group house them, often times they do fight and get injured,”. He said.
According to documents obtained by The Chronicle, 17 have been bought by GRU in the last three years and eight have been housed there since the 1990s.
Although U.S. laws enacted in the 1990s created stricter requirements for social housing in research labs, less than half of macaques housed in indoor cages were grouped socially by 2007, according to a 2011 report by Louis DiVincenti Jr., senior instructor in the department of laboratory animal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
DiVincenti wrote this is because of an “overestimation of the risks”. Underestimation of the benefits. Rhesus monkeys are naturally aggressive and might be incompatible when they're first paired, they can be housed in pairs with a high likelihood of success with minimal injuries, he wrote.
DiVincenti stated social housing can help animals better cope in stressful lab environments and can limit self-destructive behavior like hair-pulling and self-biting.
Conlee said apart from the psychological distress shown in most macaques caused by single housing, GRU staff doesn't appear to be properly trained in basic primate behavior.
In regards to the primate named Peanut who repeatedly drank his urine, a veterinary technician alledgedly told the Humane Society’s investigator that “nothing that monkey does is normal”. According to Conlee.
One primate held at Gracewood named Bonzo is hairless from self-injurious behavior.
Conlee said GRU provides “busy boxes”. Filled with fruit for enrichment. These same items have been used for so many years that they no longer provide any mental challenge for the monkeys and don't meet psychological needs.
She said a TV set blared cartoons for the primates. The investigator didn't see the primates engaged in watching and they appeared more disturbed than soothed.
Conlee said her organization has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates the use of animals in research.
“At the very least they should be socially housing those animals and have a better environmental enhancement plan,”. She said. “If they don’t have the equipment to socially house, they shouldn’t be allowed (to have the animals)…. Sometimes we see that the plan was strong and the practice was terrible. In this case, the plan was lacking and the practice was lacking.”.