WESTFIELD, Wis. – Izzle, Timon, Batman, River and Mars spent years confined inside a lab, their lives devoted to being tested for the benefit of human health.
But these rhesus macaques have paid their dues and are now living in retirement – in larger enclosures that let them venture outside, eat lettuce and carrots, dip their fingers in colorful plastic pools, paint, and hang from pipes and tires – in relative quiet.
More research labs are retiring primates to sanctuaries like Primates Inc., a 17-acre rural compound in central Wisconsin, where they can live their remaining years, according to the sanctuaries and researchers. For some monkeys, it's their first time hanging out in the fresh air.
“Just to see them look around in amazement. You know it was all very calm and peaceful,” said Amy Kerwin, who worked for 15 years to get the Westfield, Wisconsin, sanctuary off the ground after being employed in a University of Wisconsin research lab.
There were approximately 110,000 primates in research facilities in 2017, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While most research facilities need primates to be euthanized to examine their tissues, technological advances, such as brain scans, mean fewer monkeys need to be put down. Plus, researchers who become close with the animals are making more efforts to give the ones who can survive a retirement, rather than euthanization.
A visit to the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary in Indiana helped convince Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., to author a bill introduced last month, along with Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., that requires federal agencies to develop a policy allowing animals no longer needed for research to be adopted out or put in sanctuaries.