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Issue 17
Scandal at University of KZN research lab
What recognised primatologists say
Cruelty at Scottish lab exposed
Animal tested drugs killing people
Few Drugs are improvements
World Day for Laboratory Animals : 24th APRIL 2005
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WHAT RECOGNISED PRIMATOLOGISTS SAY


Rita Miljo, recognised world-wide as a reputable primatologist, runs the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE). She was the first person in the world to prove that it was possible to rehabilitate traumatised baboons and release them back into the wild - a feat she had been assured could not be done. In an interview with Snout, she had the folowing to say:

" In general, primates confiscated from labs are in no fit state to be rehabilitated and released immediately. Every individual animal has to be medically and physically assessed and, yes, what the labs leave over when they are finished is pitiful. But it can be turned around. All the baboons rescued from the Centre Africain Primatologie Experimentale (CAPE) were in an emaciated condition but, with the exception of two, have been released because - after they were fed properly at CARE - they were physically fit to go back to the wild.

Lab animals are usually wild caught and abused in Labs only as grown-up animals, which means that they grew up in the wild and will know what they are doing when they are put back. I proved that this was possible with the Shambala release. We went back several times and had great difficulty finding the troop since they had reverted to their wild state almost immediately and, with the bad experience they had during their lab time, avoid human contact where they can.

One male stayed behind since he had hardly any teeth left. He is now living next to a troop, well looked after, having all his social needs seen to, with friends that groom him, talk and fight with him and there is nothing wrong with his "captive" state. Of course it would be wrong to have him alone in another pokey cage but this need not be so. Remember our philosophy with the first research baboons from the National Centre for Occupational Health (NCOH.) We knew they were too old ever to be totally free. We have footage of them when they came to us, hairless skeletons and you should see them now - fat and happy in their large enclosures. Old Nathan has no teeth left but he lives a very happy and dignified life.

The other CAPE female that I kept back is now integrated into another troop and will be going out with them when they are released into the wild. "

Rita has for years been calling for an independent release committee, consisting of people who know what they're talking about and from where all major releases should be co-ordinated. This would then obviate releases by backyard "rehabilitators."

Rita agrees that an animal is better off euthanased than pushed out into the wild unequipped. Things must be done properly and in a transparent manner. She only believes in euthanasia when all other options are ruled out. She finds it a strange attitude indeed not to grant a sick or abused animal a time-span to recover. "Primates will always defecate and urinate as soon as they are afraid, which any lab animal would be and this should not be construed as a sign of their being irretrievably traumatised. People must acquaint themselves with the ethology of the animal before making sweeping statements. Every case is different and every animal is an individual. "

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