55 Macaque Monkeys Find Refuge as Advocates Rush to Collaborate and Construct Living Spaces
San Antonio, Texas -- Early Thursday morning, 15 July, a transport vehicle, packed with 55 crates of four- to six-year-old male Java macaque monkeys, heads for New Castle, Oklahoma.
At an Oklahoma primate sanctuary called Mindy’s Memory, eight monkeys will be welcomed. All weigh from four to seven pounds. All come from an Oxford, New Jersey animal testing lab that recently closed its doors. Today, they’re identified by their numbers: 28739, 28740 … But they will soon have names, friends, love, and caregivers who will never again let them be used for others’ benefit.
The lab from which they came -- Aniclin Preclinical Services, owned by Azopharma -- has fallen into receivership. On 30 June, a Missouri Court issued an order releasing 55 macaque monkeys to sanctuaries. New York activist Camille Hankins called Primarily Primates of Texas to ask for help. Primarily Primates arranged placements among four primate sanctuaries -- one in Oklahoma, three in Texas. The California-based group In Defense of Animals paid transport costs.
“It’s an extraordinary rescue situation with many young primates, multiple destinations, unprecedented collaborations, and new enclosures being built and fitted quickly at four sites,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Primarily Primates. “We call it Operation Monkey Trek.”
Seven monkeys will finish the road trip at Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation of Kendalia, Texas.
Next stop will be Primarily Primates sanctuary in San Antonio, which is prepared to welcome 25 of the macaques.
Finally, Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas will welcome 15 monkeys -- not born free, but free in the end from lives spent in drug toxicology studies.
Transport is not the only extraordinary challenge facing the advocates who arranged to accept the monkeys.
"If monkeys and other primates can be released from such situations, there must be support for private sanctuaries that offer refuge for these animals,” said Priscilla Feral.
“Otherwise, the animals will be stuck until death in the institutions that used them."
Bob Ingersoll, representing the board of Mindy's Memory, said enclosures are being quickly built for eight monkeys. Those able to financially assist the macaques should send support to Mindy’s Memory.
Stephen Tello, executive director at Primarily Primates, is preparing to socialize 25 male macaques who have spent years in a lab, and overseeing new construction to accommodate them.
The National Anti-Vivisection Society of Chicago, Illinois stepped in with a $5000 grant to cover materials for these monkeys’ living and sleeping areas.
Java macaques (also known as crab-eating macaques) have been exploited through captive breeding programs, and extensively used in biomedical research.
“These naturally tree-dwelling monkeys would normally be found in coastal forests and rainforests in Southeast Asia, feasting on fruits and seeds,” Tello said. “We’ll be helping these youngsters make the transition to a life and diet as similar as possible to what they’d seek in habitat.”
Dr. Val Kirk, Primarily Primates’ on-site veterinarian, reviewed the medical records of the monkeys and decided who is best suited for each of the four sanctuaries.