Zika Virus Could Thrive in Florida’s Monkey Facilities Amid the Swamps

State Health Officials Urged to Address Risk Posed by Monkeys Housed in Outdoor Enclosures Near Mosquito-Friendly Waterways

For Immediate Release:
February 10, 2016

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Immokalee, Fla. – With the number of confirmed Zika virus cases mounting in Florida and Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in the affected counties, PETA sent an urgent letter today warning the Florida state surgeon general of a potential breeding ground for the dangerous virus: the massive monkey facilities hidden away in Hendry County.

Monkeys, like human primates, are natural hosts of the Zika virus. Thousands of these animals used for breeding and experiments are being kept in outdoor, open-air cages in Hendry County—adjacent to Lee and Broward counties, where Zika cases have already been confirmed. Video shot inside Primate Products, Inc., by PETA revealed improper drainage and standing water, and an aerial image of the facility shows what appears to be a large lagoon that likely contains wet manure as well as ditches filled with water—all conditions ripe for mosquito breeding and the infection of large populations of captive monkeys.

“It takes just one infected mosquito to be attracted to the standing water near the facilities housing monkeys and—presto!—you’ve got an enormous Zika risk to public health,” says PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman. “To protect animals and the community, we believe that these squalid facilities need to be shut down and no more monkeys should be allowed into Florida from overseas.”

PETA notes that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 20 percent of infected humans are symptomatic—but all can still potentially spread the disease. Symptoms in monkeys could go easily undetected, and thousands of animals could become infected with Zika without anyone knowing—posing a risk to employees, their families, and nearby residents.

PETA’s letter is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.

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“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