Former workers speak out about Mesa primate facility

Posted at 12:59 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-05 15:59:44-04

Caregivers and contractors who previously worked at a mysterious primate facility in Mesa are now speaking out to shed some light on what's going on there.

A man who asked not to be identified said he recently worked at the facility, located near Loop 202 and Higley Road, as a private contractor. He explained that the location is now managed by the University of Washington.

Job listings for animal technicians can be found on the Indian community's website. The posts refer to the primate facility as a "breeding colony" of the Washington National Primate Research Center.

Duties include: Caring for the animals, transferring them from soiled to clean enclosures, observing the animals for abnormalities, and maintaining records related to feeding.

"They do primate research," the contractor explained. "They take very good care of the primates. Everything is very clean; the living facility for the monkeys is air conditioned. You have to wear masks and be covered from top to bottom...almost like a hazmat suit. But I was told that's to protect the monkeys more than it is to protect you."

The documents ABC15 found on the National Institute of Health website described a breeding colony of Pigtail Macaques "for the support of research" and said they're essential for biomedical research.

ABC15 reached out to several agencies to try and get answers. The City of Mesa, Maricopa County and the Arizona State Department of Agriculture had not heard about this. We were directed to the National Institute of Health. A spokeswoman wrote ABC15 back, saying everyone was out for the 4th of July holiday and they would look into it.

ABC15 reached out to the University of Washington and the WA National Primate Research Center for a comment about this project, as well as reaching out to the USDA to see if they are monitoring the welfare of these animals. ABC15 has also reached out to tribal officials at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. We have not heard back from them yet.