Non-Human Primates in Research

Primarily Primates currently houses 43 chimpanzees. Of these, 23 percent were formerly used in research, and they include eight from the Buckshire Corporation. Often operating as a supplier, Buckshire bred chimpanzees and leased animals to research labs, as well as those in the entertainment industry. Typically, chimpanzees there lived in isolation in standard-sized 5′ x 5′ x 7′ laboratory cages.

According to the American Anti-Vivisection Society, the numbers of nonhuman primates used in research has gradually increased in the last decade and significantly exceeds the numbers of nonhuman primates used when the USDA first began to record numbers of animals utilized in research. In 1973, the first year for which records were kept, 42,298 nonhuman primates were used, and in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, 62,315 were used. These figures do not take into account the nonhuman primates used for breeding. In addition, 47 percent of nonhuman primates, some 29,000 individuals, were subjected to painful and distressful experiments in 2006.

Primates are increasingly used in pharmaceutical and bioterrorism experiments, and researchers continue to promote the “development of a portfolio of non-human primate models for a variety of human diseases and conditions,” says the AVVS. For example, primates are used in experiments related to infectious disease (e.g., AIDS, malaria, TB, Lyme disease, Ebola), cardiovascular disease, diabetes, drug abuse, cross-species transplants, toxicology, vaccinations, age-related research, gene therapy, neurosciences and reproductive biology.

Because primates have rich emotional and social lives, they suffer greatly when confined in laboratory settings and used in scientific procedures.

AVVS points out that Cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis), also known as crab-eating macaques, make up the majority of non-human primates imported for research. Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are the second most imported primate species. Other highly-imported species include common marmosets, squirrel monkeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys (also known as grivet or African green monkeys), and night monkeys (also known as owl monkeys). Unfortunately wild populations of primates all across the world are being devastated to supply the research community.

The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is the only nonhuman great ape species used in biomedical research, according to AVVS. The majority of research involving chimpanzees is invasive, meaning that the projects involve infectious agents, drug testing and/or surgery or biopsy. Because of their similarity to humans, chimpanzee research in particular raises serious ethical and scientific concerns, and there is growing public support in the U.S. for a ban on the use of chimpanzees in research.

There have been milestones along the way towards that goal. In May of 2007, after prodding from AAVS and other concerned organizations, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources announced that it would permanently end the breeding of government-owned chimpanzees.

The first animal experimentation laboratories opened in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1876, the British Parliament passed the first anti-vivisection law, the Cruelty to Animals Act.

Barbara’s Story

Barbara, 44, came to Primarily Primates in May of 2005. Her previous life was spent shuffled between research centers including LEMSIP, White Sands Research Center-Coulston Foundation, Litton Bionetics, Southwest Foundation for Research and Education and the Buckshire Corporation. When Barbara first arrived she was afraid of people and her surroundings. Eventually she came out of her shell and has settled nicely into her new life at the sanctuary. Now she shares a habitat with Bubba and is a quiet, curious and friendly chimpanzee that loves strawberries and to greet new people. She also likes to trade old enrichment items for shiny new objects.

Bubba’s Story

Bubba, 24, came to PPI in May of 2005. Previously he lived most of his life at the Buckshire Corporation. Although Bubba took time to adjust to living at the sanctuary, he’s now a thriving, friendly chimpanzee. In addition to being the most acrobatic chimpanzee at the sanctuary, he has expert spitting skills. He also absolutely loves shoes. When an enrichment involves shoes, his panhoots can be heard throughout the sanctuary. He loves bananas and peppermints.

Siri’s Story

Born in 1973, Siri, 40, was captured from the wild. Siri was purchased by a private owner and then “donated” to the Sanford Zoo in Florida. She was later sent to the Buckshire Corporation and used for research. Siri was released to Primarily Primates in April 1996. Siri likes to follow care staff around her habitat looking for hidden treats that might be in their pockets. Siri is clever and can raid produce buckets if they are left too close to her enclosure. Sometimes care staff members find the most unusual objects in her nests, such as her favorite piece of paper that she carried with her for over a month. Siri enjoys days when she can wander around her habitat and forage for hidden treats. She enjoys anything with strawberries and Romaine lettuce. She doesn’t care for mushrooms, unless they have been grilled and seasoned with herbs.

April’s Story

It is estimated that April, 42, was captured in the wild around 1971. She was privately owned until she was purchased in 1984. In 1986 she was leased to the Buckshire Corporation and used as a breeder for Hepatitis B research. She was later leased to LEMSIP and returned back to Buckshire Corporation in 1987. At first April was thin and shy natured. It took months of loving care from our staff to help her become comfortable with human interaction. April is friendly and thoroughly enjoys spitting on her female enrichment coordinator if she gets anywhere near her favorite male staff providers. April enjoys most foods with the exception of cactus fruit. Her favorite enrichment activity is foraging.