Seven research monkeys die at UCD facility
Thursday August 26, 2004
Heater malfunction under investigation
By KATY TANG
What was supposed to be a routine check for lab
technicians at a UC Davis medical research facility turned tragic when
they discovered that a heating system had malfunctioned in a room -
killing seven research monkeys on Saturday.
Within 10 minutes of discovering the malfunction, a
veterinarian arrived at the building and determined that two of the
eight monkeys in the same room were still alive, according to Dallas
Hyde, director of the California National Research Primate Center at UCD.
Hyde said the two monkeys were immediately put on
fluids to treat the dehydration, but one of the monkeys had to be
euthanized due to a kidney failure. The carcasses were frozen and will
be disposed of at an incinerator in Utah.
The temperature in the rooms containing monkeys are
usually held at around 75 degrees, Hyde said. According to what was
recorded, the room had shot up to 115 degrees. The cause of the
malfunction is still under investigation.
"There was supposed to have been a backup system to
shut everything down, but that failed as well," Hyde said.
The cynomolgus monkeys - or long-tailed Macaques -
were housed in the Animal Resources Science building located at the
south of campus, which served as an overflow space for the Primate
Center, said UCD spokesman Andy Fell. They ranged from five to eight
"Those rooms [at the overflow building] didn't have
temperature alarms," Fell said. "The other monkeys in neighboring rooms
have been moved out to the Primate Center as a precaution."
The 32 monkeys that were previously at the ARS
building are now residing at the Primate Center's quarantine space,
where there are temperature monitoring systems as well as primate staff
checking on the animals.
The monkeys at the overflow building were checked
twice a day by the primate staff, in the evening and the morning. Hyde
said lab technicians apparently recorded that they had checked the
animals at about 3 p.m. on Friday, and again at 6 a.m. Saturday - just
two hours prior to the discovery.
The monkeys were part of a breeding colony, and had
not yet been assigned to particular experiments. There will be no
suspension in experiments at the Primate Center, but the overflow
facility will be shut down permanently, according to Fell. Construction
projects for new buildings are in progress, which will house the monkeys
The Primate Center houses about 4,000 monkeys, and
many of them are used for research in studying HIV/AIDS, chronic stress,
and Alzheimer's disease.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now - an Ohio-based
animal-rights watchdog association - released a statement Monday
accusing the UCD staff of negligence. Michael Budkie, executive director
of SAEN, said in the statement that "the situation has underscored the
obvious need for more oversight of laboratories."
SAEN is calling for an independent investigation and a
suspension of experiments at the Primate Center. Hyde said SAEN has "a
right to ask for details.we want to know as much as they do."
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
had made an unannounced inspection of the facility and deemed it
satisfactory, Hyde said.
"We're distraught over the whole issue," he said.
"Obviously the animals did suffer when this happened, and that's one of
the things we work tirelessly to prevent."