The pigtail macaque got tangled in a chain dangling from a device attached to its cage at the recently opened underground facility.
A research monkey strangled to death this spring at the University of Washington’s new, underground animal laboratory.
Records released by the animal rights organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now show that the pigtail macaque got tangled in a chain dangling from a device called a foraging board attached to its cage.
“The animal was able to pull a portion of a chain through the bars and around its head and got it caught on its jaw, resulting in asphyxiation,” says a May 1 letter from the UW notifying the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Animal Research of the incident.
A foraging board holds food that monkeys can extract themselves, simulating foraging in the wild and enriching the caged animals’ environment. The UW letter says the device had been modified and was not installed properly.
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The monkey’s social partner, housed either in the same or an adjacent cage, witnessed the death and was sedated with Valium, the letter adds.
“The death of a healthy pigtail macaque in April 2018 was a tragic and unexpected loss,” UW spokeswoman Tina Mankowski wrote in an email to The Seattle Times. “All of the foraging devices were removed from the cages within an hour of the incident and alternative forms of enrichment were emphasized.”
Mankowski also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects animal research labs, has not cited the UW for the death.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a complaint with USDA, asking the agency to levy a fine against the university.
The monkey is the 10th primate to die accidentally at the UW since 2009, when a male macaque starved to death. The USDA fined the university almost $11,000 for that incident.
In 2014, the USDA cited the university for the deaths of three young monkeys who were placed in cages with, or near, adult males who attacked them. The UW earned another USDA citation in 2015, after three monkeys died after surgery to fit them with skull and vertebral implants. In 2017, an 8-year-old female pigtail macaque died of thirst after the water line to its cage became disconnected.
Earlier this year, the UW opened a new, $142 million underground facility called the Animal Research and Care Facility, where the latest death occurred. Animal rights organizations protested the construction of the new lab, and won a court case that found the UW Regents violated public meetings law by repeatedly discussing the new lab and other business over dinner at the UW president’s home.
The Washington National Primate Research Center at the UW is one of seven large, federally funded facilities across the country. Much of the work conducted on primates is directly related to human health, including the search for an AIDS vaccine, studies of lifesaving treatments for premature babies and research into brain function.
The UW earned praise in 2016 from an independent accrediting council for “maintaining an excellent program of laboratory animal care and use.”
According to its most recent annual report to the USDA, the UW had more than 4,000 research animals, 667 of which were primates. The university also operates primate breeding colonies in Arizona and Louisiana.