Primate Experimentation in the US:
The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know

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Primate Experimentation in the US: The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.
513-575-5517 [email protected]  

University of Wisconsin Primate Health Care

During the 2002 - 2003 period the WNPRC housed roughly 1500 primates. Most of these primates are macaca mulatta or rhesus monkeys. The next largest group of primates is callithrix jacchus or marmosets. These primates are maintained to be used as research subjects, or in the breeding of primates for research. The center supports research in aging, diet, reproduction, psychology, and other areas.

The colony statistics table from the NIH progress report filed by WNPRC reveals a number of interesting statistics. The year began with 1513 primates in residence at the center. 84 marmosets were born during the year, no macaques were born. For the purposes of the progress report live births are defined as “inflated lungs.” The progress report does not list any infant or juvenile macaques or marmosets dying at the WNPRC. 159 primates were added to the colony from outside sources. 29 primates died during experimentation. 118 primates died of non-experimental causes. The total number of primate deaths listed in the report (experimental and non-experimental) is 147. 95 were sold or transferred outside the center.

The following table lists the numbers of primates for whom WNPRC provided necropsy reports (i.e. post-mortem reports) whose dates correspond to the time period for the progress report that WNPRC filed with the NIH. These primates all apparently died of natural causes.

  Adult 1 day – 1 month old Stillbirths
Macaques 70 8 10
Marmosets 36 40 21
Total 106 48 31

Note: 3 additional necropsy reports were provided from macaque monkeys that were euthanized during experimentation.

Total deaths (non-stillbirths) 157

Closer examination of these records raises many questions. For example: the 8 macaques in the 1 day – 1 month old category had ages of: 1 day (3x), 2 day, 1 week, 2 ˝ weeks, and 1 month (2x). If, as the progress report says, no macaques were born during this period, where did these young animals come from? It is not likely that 1 day old primates were shipped in from a supplier. It is even more surprising that the report lists no infant/juvenile macaques as dying. What about these 8 macaques? The progress report also lists no deaths among infant/juvenile marmosets. However WNPRC provided necropsy reports for 40 marmosets in the 1 day – 1 month old category. Apparently the WNPRC conveniently forgot about these 48 short lives when filing their NIH progress report. The progress report lists 147 deaths at the primate center, but WNPRC provided 157 necropsy reports that occurred during this period.

Many other pieces of information can be derived from the necropsy reports at the WNPRC. This information can reveal patterns in the diseases which functioned as causes of death, thereby providing an indication of the conditions at the WNPRC.


1. 38 (54.3%) died with lymphoplasmacytic gastritis – this disease can be caused by stress.

2. 27 (21%) died with enteritis and/or colitis – also potentially caused by stress.

3. 2 had reached a state of emaciation

4. 4 had begun to self-mutilate

5. Other disease conditions included: pneumonia, hepatitis, endometriosis, peritonitis, etc.


1. 23 (64%) had lymphocytic enteritis – this disease can be caused by stress

2. 8 (22%) had become cachetic (emaciated) 6 (16.7%) more were listed as thin -- or -- 14 (38.9%) were substantially undernourished

3. 1 marmoset had begun to self-mutilate

4. Other diseases included lymphosarcoma, hepatitis, meningitis, encephalitis, etc.

5. The infant mortality rate for the marmoset colony is 58.1% = (live births – infant necropsies) / (live births + stillbirths)

6. 8 of the infant animals that were given post-mortem examinations had been cannibalized by other marmosets

What do these individual pieces of information lead to? Lymphoplasmacytic gastritis in macaques and lymphocytic enteritis in marmosets can be caused by stress. High infant mortality rates can be caused by stress. Cannibalism can also be influenced by stress. A significant number of primates at WNPRC engaged in self-mutilation. This is likely a result of social isolation. It is very likely that only the most susceptible primates engaged in self-mutilation; others have probably developed behavioral pathologies of a different nature. Additionally, we only have knowledge of the self-mutilating primates that died. We have no way of knowing how many living macaques and marmosets are physically injuring themselves at this very moment.

We must also conclude that the animals within this colony suffer from chronic stress. All the signs are there: gastro-intestinal tract disease.

Additionally, three marmosets were recently killed at the WNPRC when they were not removed from their cage before the cage was sanitized.

Go on to:  Primate Health Care at UC Davis/CPRC
See Facility Reports for University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
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