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Articles and Reports

Primate Health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin National Primate Research Center:
What We Weren’t Told by the UW
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN

Executive Summary

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center housed approximately 1500 primates during the reporting period for May 2002 – April 2003. The majority of these primates are rhesus macaques and the second largest group is marmosets. The primate center brought roughly $62,139,601 in funding to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This funding came primarily from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

WNPRC reported 147 primate deaths to the NIH, but provided 157 primate necropsy reports as a response to a document request which asked only for documentation regarding primate deaths at the WNPRC. The Report filed by the WNPRC with the NIH listed no macaque births during the reporting period. However, necropsy reports for primates aged: 1 day (3x), 2 day, 1 week, 2 ˝ weeks, and 1 month (2x) were provided to SAEN in response to the same document request. Unless some breeder is in the habit of shipping one day old primates, WNPRC has filed an inaccurate and misleading report. 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.

It is quite apparent that the primates at the WNPRC are extremely stressed. 5 of the 157 primates who died during this period were so severely stressed as to have begun to engage in self-mutilation. 54.3% of the macaques who died exhibited gastro-intestinal tract diseases, while 64% of the marmosets exhibited similar pathological conditions. The marmoset colony had an infant mortality rate of 58.1%. The Macaque colony apparently had either no births, or had a 100% infant mortality rate.

The pathological conditions from which primates at the WNPRC suffered included: lymphoplasmacytic gastritis, lymphocytic enteritis, encephalitis, meningitis, peritonitis, lymphosarcoma, hepatitis, etc. 23 primates (rhesus or macaques) were either markedly thin or cachetic (emaciated) at death. This may indicate that theses animals were allowed to progress to an unacceptably excessive level of debilitation as a result of disease.

Several of the more unusual deaths (i.e. encephalitis, meningitis, etc.) were caused by experimental procedures that opened the skull and/or attached head caps on the skulls of primates. Some of these animals had openings in their skulls which left the brain visible. The severe stress level of the primates at WNPRC can, in many cases, be attributed to the experimentation in which the animals were used. Several of these projects deliberately subjected the animals to stress by engaging in practices such as removing young animals from the care of their mothers. However, these projects are not large enough to account for the severely heightened stress levels in the macaques and marmosets caged at WNPRC. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the laboratory environment itself is the underlying cause.

The severely elevated stress levels exhibited by the inmates at the WNPRC are sufficient to have altered their bodily chemistry such that these animals would respond to situations differently than would their free-ranging conspecifics. If these animals would not accurately represent animals of their own species, it cannot be concluded that data obtained from experimentation on these animals would have any relevance whatsoever to humans.

In response to this information SAEN is expanding our investigations to include other large labs across the U.S. The findings of this report will also be disseminated to legislators on the appropriate committees within the U.S. House of Representatives ad the U.S. Senate.

Go on to The NIH Progress Report for the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center
Return to Primate Health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Return to Articles and Reports

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