Human Interest

108 former lab monkeys given new shot at life in Colombia

By Mario Baos

Cali, Colombia, Mar 27 (EFE).- Tucked in the mountains of Colombia’s Palmira, some 108 monkeys are being treated for the painful experiments they endured at a laboratory that used them to test malaria vaccines.

When the monkeys, imprisoned in cages for years at the Caucaseco Research Center and the Primate Center Foundation located on the outskirts of Cali, were freed, they were full of parasites, some were missing eyes and others had broken bones.

A complaint about the cruelty that those animals underwent was filed by the animal organization PETA, which claimed that these centers had taken millions of dollars in funding from the government and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2003.

The animals were rescued on February 17 during an operation by the regional environmental authority (CVC), backed by the police and the military. They then were transferred to the Wildlife Care and Valuation Center of San Emigdio.

At the 14-hectare sanctuary, 23 experts are in charge of treating and caring for the monkeys.

SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES

Marco Antonio Suarez, the CVC general director, says the animals are undergoing a 90-day quarantine period with a special diet.

“They arrived in a very bad condition, from nutrition problems to other issues that sadden us,” he tells Efe.

Some “102 night monkeys and 6 squirrel monkeys have already shown improvements after just one month of treatment.

“Habitats (in San Emigdio) have been adjusted for these monkeys. They detect diseases in quarantine and accurately evaluate the state of health.”

Suarez stresses that the animals “will not be returned by any means to their former owners,” confirming the two organizations that had them locked up have filed two complaints in a bid to retrieve the monkeys.

“Fortunately, the authorities have ruled in favor of our corporation. We will not allow more mistreatment of animals,” he points out.

RETURN TO FREEDOM

CVC biologist Alexandra Duque explains the primates have gone through several processes to help them recover habits and adapt to natural conditions as they have been feeding them barley, seeds, worms and various proteins found in the wild.

“If people understood the suffering that an animal in captivity has to go through, they would release them,” the biologist says.

Authorities are set to decide whether the monkeys are ready to be released into the wild after 90 days.

This wildlife care center has cared for more than 5,200 animals of various species that have been victims of trafficking, mistreatment or abuse by humans.

“Wildlife are not pets and the best gift we can give them is to admire them in freedom, please don’t hurt them anymore,” Suárez concluded. EFE

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