four monkeys at their new home after being rescued from a cruel facility in colombia

Lab Closed After PETA Exposes Death, Disease, and Despair

Issue 3|Summer 2023

Help Us Derail the NIH Gravy Train!

In a ramshackle outdoor pen cobbled together out of backyard fencing and sheets of plastic, a baby owl monkey lay dead. It’s anyone’s guess how long his tiny body rotted in this makeshift Colombian laboratory before authorities, tipped off by PETA, discovered it. Although it’s too late for him, the festering hellhole where he died – known euphemistically as the Primate Center Foundation (FUCEP) – is no more: Following PETA’s damning 18-month investigation, Colombian authorities shut it down and charged the monkey abusers.

Monkeys at NIH funded facility in Colombia
RESCUED! Owl monkeys are devoted partners and parents – fathers play with, feed, and carry their young on their backs.

It’s Hard to See the Moon From Prison

Aotus monkeys, also called owl monkeys or night monkeys, live by the light of the moon, foraging for fruit and leaves in the wee hours while much of the rest of the forest slumbers. They are adept leapers, bounding from branch to branch in the canopy of trees.

But PETA exposed that at FUCEP, owl monkeys who had been snatched from their jungle homes or illegally bred into a life of exploitation were held in rusty cages so feces-encrusted that they were growing fungus. The laboratory was as shoddy as the “science” it claimed to conduct, made of chain-link fencing topped with construction mesh and plastic sheets that shifted in storms, leaving the animals exposed to the elements.

PETA’s investigation, involving thousands of pages of official documents and the testimonies of 11 witnesses, uncovered that FUCEP experimenters deliberately infected monkeys with the malaria parasite and surgically removed their spleens before killing them or leaving them to die from infected wounds. There was no veterinarian on staff.

Employees fed the monkeys dog kibble soaked in sugary water and used the same room for both necropsies and medical procedures, with no concern for contamination. One monkey was missing an eye, and 21 monkeys had simply “disappeared” from the laboratory without a trace.

dr magnolia martinez
Dr. Magnolia Martínez, lead projects manager of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, digs deep to uncover the consortium experimenters’ dirty deeds.

Follow the Money Down the Sinkhole

FUCEP is part of a consortium that includes the Caucaseco Scientific Research Center (CSRC) and the Malaria Vaccine and Development Center (MVDC), run by husband-and-wife duo Sócrates Herrera Valencia and Myriam Arévalo Ramírez and their family.

Herrera and Arévalo lied on grant applications and apparently manipulated data to keep the funds flowing from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet the agency has never bothered to investigate the records or the facility. Since 2012, FUCEP hasn’t had any permits to experiment on monkeys or to breed them.

No NIH Oversight

NIH has put no process in place to monitor foreign institutions. It has given this institution $17 million so far without any oversight. Yet FUCEP, CSRC, and MVDC have never produced a malaria vaccine, the whole reason they’ve received US taxpayer funds.

mice being rescued
Rescuers whisk survivors from the decrepit laboratory.

Colombian Officials Pounce

PETA’s investigation persuaded Colombian authorities and elected leaders to act: The environmental agency Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Cauca (CVC) ordered the laboratory to end all experiments on monkeys and raided the decrepit facility. Together with the Colombian Office of the Attorney General, it completed the largest rescue operation in Colombia’s history, seizing 102 owl monkeys and six squirrel monkeys. Soon after, local authorities rescued the last remaining victims, 180 mice. Colombian officials shut down the entire CSRC campus and charged its owners, stating that it was “not safe for humans or animals.” PETA is calling for an investigation into the misuse of funds and the lack of scientific integrity.

Surviving Monkeys and Mice Go to Rehab

The monkeys, many of whom were disabled or suffering from fractures, amputated fingers, or other injuries, are finally safe. They are recovering at CVC’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center and receiving proper medical care. The mice – who had been deprived of water and crammed by the dozens into boxes designed to hold no more than five mice – are also recovering at the recently opened Animal Welfare Center in Cali, Colombia.

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