Primate deaths the focus of animal rights group

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Please contact Dr. Gibbens and demand that he take immediate action against University of Louisiana, Lafayette, for the deaths of multiple primates due to negligence and/or traumatic injuries.

Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Western Region
2150 Center Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117

(970) 494-7478
[email protected]

Primate deaths the focus of animal rights group

From, Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Deaths from trauma of 11 primates at the New Iberia Research Center may indicate negligence, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should investigate, an animal rights activist said Tuesday.

Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, said federal authorities should take a closer look at those primate deaths at the center operating as part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Five of the primates Budkie listed in his complaint were a few days to a year old. Others ranged from 4 and 1/2 to 13 years old.

The center listed all of the the primate deaths in routine reports to the National Institutes of Health, which the animal rights group obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Dave Sacks, a spokesman for U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that agency will send inspectors to New Iberia.

"Because of the scope of the complaint, and because the allegations date as far back as 2010, our review is expected to take a significant period of time," he wrote in an email.

A November inspection by another federal agency, prompted by an earlier complaint from Budkie, found that it met all standards, according to Thomas Rowell, director of the center.

The center specializes in the breeding and management of a range of primate animal species used in basic research.

Rowell said primates fight, and rhesus monkeys — about 5,000 of the center's 6,500 primates — often do so when animals in groups of 30 to 50 push for higher status.

Additionally, some mothers — most often the young and inexperienced — "can be very aggressive ... abusive, if you will, to their infants," said Babette Fontenot, the center's behaviorist. She said NIRC has a nursery for babies whose "moms are not treating them right," but sometimes the trauma is fatal.

Fontenot estimated that up to 12 percent of monkeys die in their first two years, with trauma causing 40 to 50 percent of the deaths.

Budkie's latest complaint lists deaths from May 2010 through March 2011.

Rowell said an earlier complaint brought an inspection by the federal Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

Budkie said USDA documents indicate that a reprimand or fines are possible in the deaths last year of three rhesus monkeys trapped in a transfer chute, and a chimpanzee that died while being taken from a Maryland lab to the Louisiana center.

Sacks said APHIS is investigating both of those cases.

"I cannot comment further because these cases are still ongoing," he wrote.

Rowell said he expects the center to be fined for the deaths of the monkeys but not for that of the chimp.

The chute where the rhesus monkeys' bodies were found last May was the only one with doors at both end, Rowell said. He said he also has taken other steps, including checking the monkeys more often and increasing training for their caretakers, which DHH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare had given him a year to implement.

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