This Monkey’s Name Is Princess, but Her Life in a Lab Is Far From a Fairytale

Published by Elena Waldman.

Meet Princess, a mother macaque whose life is anything but a fairytale. She was born at the New England Primate Research Center in 2004 and was transferred to the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) in 2014, where she still suffers today. She has never had the chance to climb trees, forage for food, or meaningfully socialize with peers of her species. Instead, experimenters have held her in cold, barren cages and repeatedly and forcibly bred her before taking her precious babies away.

Princess didn’t get her name from the WNPRC, where, in her despair, she apparently pulled out her own hair, leaving her body nearly bald for at least six years. In the laboratory where she’s held, she’s referred to as a number—rh2519—and treated that way, too. Princess received her fitting name—and likely the first kindness she has ever experienced—from a PETA investigator who went undercover at the WNPRC. The investigator named her Princess to reflect her sweet-natured personality and gentle way of accepting treats.

Despite her obvious misery, experimenters forcibly bred Princess and made her give birth alone in a wire-bottomed cage. In her natural habitat, she would have spent years with her young and her daughters would have stayed with her for their entire lives. But experimenters took all of her babies away from her so that they could torment them in tests.

Princess gave birth four times at the New England Primate Research Center and four more times at the WNPRC, where workers typically separate babies from their mothers when they’re only about a year old.

When their beloved babies are snatched away, it’s deeply traumatic for macaques like Princess. Mother macaques are deeply devoted to their young and typically nurture them by lovingly gazing into their eyes, kissing them, and using special vocalizations to speak to them (aka “baby talk”).

One of Princess’ infants, who was born in 2017, died at 1 day of age. In nature, when a mother monkey’s infant dies, her grief can be so devastating that she may carry the limp body around for days.

Macaque kisses younger primate on forehead

The depth of Princess’ suffering has been documented in shocking detail over the years. Records that PETA obtained from the University of Wisconsin–Madison revealed that she was beaten up after workers confined her with an incompatible cagemate. She sustained multiple, persistent injuries, including a bloody wound on her thigh, multiple scratches on her head and face, large lacerations at the base and tip of her tail, cuts on her hand, bruises on her neck, and large scabs on her back.

A PETA investigator found that, in addition to having diarrhea on multiple occasions, Princess had apparently ripped out her own hair. According to the documents obtained by PETA, in September of 2020, Princess had hair loss over 75% to 100% of her body. Workers gave her wooden logs and coconuts to pick at, in an attempt to stop her self-mutilation. But a log isn’t enough to take away the deprivation and misery of a life sentence in a cage. And by the time her baby was 2 months old, she, too, was missing patches of hair from her back.

This suffering isn’t isolated. PETA’s investigation revealed a consistent pattern of injuries caused by animals to each other and to themselves at the WNPRC, likely as a result of the severely stressful conditions in the lab. Workers confined monkeys to barren metal cages every day and night, sometimes alone or with an incompatible cagemate—both of which have caused these highly social, intelligent animals frustration and psychological distress. PETA investigators found one monkey who had lost part of an ear in a fight with her cagemate. Another imprisoned monkey had picked compulsively at a wound on his leg, mutilating it down to the muscle.

Don’t Let the WNPRC Keep Up This Cruelty—Take Action for Animals Like Princess

There’s no bond quite like the one between a mother and her young. Like all mothers, Princess wants to comfort and care for her babies—and she deserves a life in which experimenters don’t deprive her of her most important relationships. Take action for her and other animals suffering at the WNPRC by demanding that the lab release all the animals to reputable sanctuaries:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind