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Why help monkeys?

Currently, there are approximately 105,000 monkeys living in U.S. laboratories (~8,000 are living in Madison, WI). Amy Kerwin founded Primates Incorporated in 2004 while she was working with 97 rhesus monkeys in a laboratory at UW Madison. She discovered their amazing intelligence and individual personalities, and concluded there had to be a way to both improve their welfare and increase the frequency of their retirement into primate sanctuaries.

She began networking with other primate sanctuaries and discovered most of them were near capacity and were forced to turn away researchers looking to do the right thing. The reality is that monkeys who are rejected from retirement are sold to more studies, kept on as breeders, or euthanized to free up their cages.

Additionally, thousands of monkeys are bought and sold in the exotic pet trade. Monkeys do not make good pets in people’s homes. They become aggressive toward humans as they age and often times are sent to a primate sanctuary as a solution. In fact most of the primate sanctuaries initially neared capacity by rescuing ex-pet monkeys. Ex-pet monkeys are very difficult to rehabilitate since they were raised in an unnatural environment with humans.

How long do monkey's live?

Cynomologus monkeys, one of the most prevalent monkeys used in research, live to an average age of 38 years old in captivity. They get retired from research at all ages—it depends on the study.

It is up to the researcher to take the initiative to retire the monkeys. Every year, additional researchers are considering retirement for the healthy monkeys in their studies.

Regulations for housing monkeys?

  • Primates Incorporated (PI) will obtain licensing by the USDA under the category: “exhibitor”
  • Only realistic category the USDA has for animal sanctuary
  • The University of Wisconsin is licensed by the USDA as a “research facility”
  • Since Primates Incorporated will have USDA licensing in common with research facilities, transfer of primates from the research facility to the sanctuary will be a smooth transition
  • PI will apply for accreditation through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) – innovative guidelines that help sanctuaries exceed the federal (USDA) standards

What will the sanctuary look like?

  • Indoor enclosures will have greenhouse environments containing three enclosures for a troop of 5-15 monkeys to live in (minimum of 200sq feet each)
  • Outdoor enclosures would be approximately ¼ acre in size and would be at least 12 feet high, incorporate some trees on the land, and have mesh over the top
  • Indoor/outdoor enclosures will contain a combination of climbing structures, natural vegetation, and synthetic vegetation
  • The Founder, Amy Kerwin, has been networking with primate sanctuaries for nine years to develop the optimal sanctuary environment

Click here to learn more.

What types of enrichment will you have?

We will have a combination of natural and artificial vegetation throughout the monkey sanctuary. Our goal is to simulate the life the monkeys would be living in the wild. They travel and forage as a means for diet and enrichment.

We will have three different enclosures for them to travel through; we will place treats such as sunflower seeds and raisins on the ground in the straw bedding to stimulate foraging behavior. Outdoors, we will utilize the trees already on the property by building the enclosures around them.

Will the primates be noisy?

Monkeys are quiet most of the time while they perform their most common social activities: foraging and grooming one another. However:

  • They all are collectively loud just before feeding times (primate “cheers” from excitement)
  • The monkeys will be fed indoors twice daily – once in morning and once at night
  • During nighttime feeding, the monkeys will cooperatively enter their indoor enclosures for the night
  • They can be loud when encountering a disruption of some kind like a train or a flock of birds (may hear a few warning calls to each other)
  • They are loud if there is a conflict in the group which usually sorts itself out in a few minutes

We will attempt to minimize noise by:

  • Building enclosures as far in from the perimeter of the property as possible
  • Planting additional trees around enclosures and perimeter to help minimize noise
  • Primates will be housed indoors at night so no outside noise will be heard after 7pm


Do monkeys carry any diseases?

Many monkeys retired from research are involved in various toxicology studies – where the effect of the drug or chemical is tested on their whole body system. After testing has ceased, the drug or chemical leaves the body, and the monkey is healthy again (unless the test harmed the animal beyond recovery or it was a planned terminal study).

Additionally, there are “control” monkeys, laboratory “favorites,” breeders, and monkeys used in cognitive testing studies who could also be retired.

We will require all monkeys to have a clean bill of health before arrival to the sanctuary. Laboratories have on-site veterinarians who can provide a full physical and blood analysis to ensure the monkey has a clean bill of health before departure.

Any monkeys coming from situations where a veterinarian is not able to provide a physical, such as in the case of a pet monkey, will receive a full physical on site and blood analysis by our attending veterinarian.

Are you a researcher who would like to retire monkeys under your care and it is your first time?

Thank you for planning for the retirement of the monkeys under your care! If you would like to be connected with other researchers who have retirement programs in place, please let us know. We would be happy to connect you so that you can develop a standardized primate retirement program.

Planning for retirement through an established program will help prevent any one employee or individual from being labeled an activist or some other divisive name just for trying to do the “upright thing.”

Wouldn’t it improve employee morale if researchers could see the monkeys live out their last days with dignity in spacious and enriching environments? Therefore retirement is good for the monkeys and humans.


Do the Upright thing: support primate retirement.

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