Baboons in Research
What happens to primates at the Institute of Primate Research
The Institute of Primate Research (IPR) accepts researchers from around the world, including from the USA and Europe, in particular the UK, to visit and conduct experiments on wild-caught baboons; much of it is highly invasive, causes immense suffering and is even fatal.
Based on a review of published papers carried out by the BUAV, the majority of recent work by resident and visiting researchers involved in repetitive experiments that attempt to establish the use of baboons to research human diseases. A large proportion of the work has recently focused on malaria and a range of human reproductive diseases such as Chlamydia and endometriosis and to test new in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques and intra uterine contraceptive devices (IUDs). Researchers also used wild-caught vervet monkeys to study leishmaniasis and trypanosome infection (sleeping sickness).
Examples of experiments conducted
Male baboons were infected with the malaria parasite, some were given thestandard anti-malaria drug, others given various doses of a drug already used in humans to treat cancer (methotrexate), and the others were left untreated. The baboons were subjected to injections, and repetitive blood sampling numerous times a day. Symptoms experienced by the baboons included decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, dehydration and difficulty in breathing. All the baboons not treated with the conventional drug died.
Khat is a herbal stimulant commonly chewed by people; to look at the effect khat has on sperm production and male hormones, researchers from Belgium sedated baboons numerous times a week during which they had khat forced down their throats. Once a week blood samples were taken under sedation and electrodes inserted into their rectums to force ejaculation.
Female baboons were used in research for endometriosis; the animals had their cervix stitched shut, while others had parts of it removed for analysis. After 9 months the baboons were surgically examined; some had such severe build-up of blood in the uterus that their bellies were distended. A second round of surgery that cut a hole in the side of the uterus resulted in one baboon dying of a haemorrhage several days later. The researchers persisted in their attempts, removing ovaries and cutting large biopsies from the wombs of more baboons, which they sewed to sections of the bladder and bowel.
Researchers from the University of Newcastle conducted invasive brain surgery on baboons to investigate which parts of the brain were involved in movement using ultrasonic brain stimulation, a terminal surgical procedure. The animal’s head was placed into a stereotaxic frame to hold it in place whilst the skull was drilled open. The spine was opened up and some vertebrae removed to expose the spinal cord. The surgery was so severe (parts of the brain were removed) that the animals were not allowed to recover.
The majority of the work that the BUAV analysed appears to be very speculative research: attempting to establish the use of baboons for research into varied human conditions and diseases. However, there are an array of alternatives that should have been used instead. Furthermore, much of the work delivered little or no novel data, and duplicated previous work in other species, including humans.
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