They have names and tattoo numbers, but they aren't missing pets. They are carefully managed and kept from public view, but they aren't Hollywood stars. They receive regular meals and live behind bars, but they aren't in prison. Who are they?
These phrases describe the life of primates who live at research laboratories and are representative of the hundreds of thousands of rhesus macaques who remain in the research industry today. Over the last ten years, the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch rescued rhesus macaques who have been used in various biomedical research laboratories across the country. For the primates kept in small steel, sterile cages inside these laboratories, these facilities are places where they experience pain and distress on a regular basis.
Macaques are used in research primarily because their genetic makeup is similar to humans, especially their neurological, reproductive, and immunologic systems. The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) is yellowish brown in color and has a tail about half as long as the body. They live in social groups in the forests or rocky hillsides, typically at high altitudes. As a testament to their wide use in medical experiments, the RH blood factor found in humans, as well as monkeys, was named for the rhesus macaque.
They are natives of Southeast Asia, including India, Thailand, and Southern China. Up until 1977, they were captured in India by the tens of thousands and brought to the United States for the research industry. The consumption of rhesus macaques by the research industry reduced wild populations by 90% before export limits were put into place. In 1978, India banned export of rhesus macaques, and breeding colonies were established in the U.S. to continue the supply.
Macaques at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch
Reviewing the few records of origin we have for the ranch's rhesus macaques is a chilling process. One group of six rhesus macaques, known only by their numbers AH19, AH73, AH76, AI84, AK12, and AL21 arrived at the ranch in August of 1995. The group originated from the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, Department of Psychology. Their birth dates range from 5/10/79 to 3/20/84. There is no evidence of studies or experiments performed on them there. In May of 1990, they were shipped to the University of Texas Health Science Center, Dental Branch, in Houston. Referred to only as numbers, we know little of these animals' prior history and what they had been subjected to apart from routine testing for tuberculosis. Not surprisingly, investigators' names have been blocked out on most records and forms.