Yerkes Center inspection finds no violations

A rhesus monkey plays in its compound in this 2009 file photo at the Yerkes Primate Center Field Station in Lawrenceville.

A rhesus monkey plays in its compound in this 2009 file photo at the Yerkes Primate Center Field Station in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A recent inspection of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center's Lawrenceville field office resulted in no formal violations, but animal rights activists say information revealed in documents related to that inspection raised even more questions regarding the facility's operations.

Last Wednesday, officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the Yerkes station on Taylor Lane in response to a 2-year-old rhesus macaque monkey that was reported missing from the center on June 15.

According to DNR documents obtained by the Daily Post, their investigation noted no violations, and all requirements were "met or exceeded."

In fact, the missing monkey -- named "REp13" at the field office -- may not even be alive.

"(Yerkes veterinarian Joyce Cohen) said there was no evidence that the monkey had escaped and that unofficially, she believed the monkey was deceased," the report said. "Cohen speculated that the monkey had fallen into a crevice and died or a hawk had captured the monkey."

That statement, however, is one that has representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals more concerned than ever.

"If this is a possibility now, how many other monkeys have fallen into crevasses and died in the past and simply no one noticed?" said Justin Goodman, the associate director for PETA's laboratory investigations department.

"I don't think that these documents should be reassuring for anyone. If anything they should raise more red flags."

A memo sent from Cohen to Yerkes director Dr. Stuart Zola and others was also obtained by the Daily Post. It details a thorough search for the animal, including "exploring areas with a camera on a scope."

The missing monkey, it said, was part of a group of primates relocated within the compound on May 26, some three weeks before it was reported missing. REp13, documents said, had not been "individually accessed" since Dec. 16 of last year.

"Yerkes doesn't care about the well-being of the animals and that's clear from these documents, much less the public's health and safety," Goodman said. "Nobody had seen or cared to look for this monkey for eight months in the facility, during which time she could have gotten sick or injured herself."

"There's absolutely no oversight for the health and well-being of these animals."

According to the memo, three internal policy changes have been enacted at Yerkes since REp13's disappearance:

* A new policy requiring that rhesus macaques be individually identified at the completion of any move, as opposed to only a group census.

* A new policy of performing a monthly census on "every rhesus monkey compound."

* Officials are "exploring the possibility of enhancing our animal microchip capabilities to determine if animal tracking is possible."