Mesa monkey facility mystery solved after ABC15 report

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jul 05, 2017

The monkey facility mystery in the Arizona desert is a mystery no more.

Several viewers contacted ABC15 after obtaining video via drones and personal cameras of monkeys in cages in a facility thought to have been abandoned.

The property off Loop 202 and Higley Road in Mesa was once a sanctuary of sorts for Chimpanzees. The owner sold the animals to a medical lab for research, then the place shut down for a while.

The University of Washington in Seattle has confirmed to ABC15 that they have been active on the property and have been breeding Macaques there. The facility is referred to as the "Arizona Breeding Colony." 

"We've leased the facility from the tribal council for four years now. The animals we are breeding are Pigtail Macaques," said Tina Mankowski, a spokeswoman for the University of Washington. 

A grant proposal put together for the National Institute of Health indicates a shortage of Macaques for use in the medical field for research.

Mankowski said the monkeys would be used primarily for medical research funded by the N.I.H and the Centers for Disease Control. 

"It's a lot of different types of research. There's research on color blindness, premature infants, a lot of HIV/AIDS research is also conducted on non-human primates. Once we can we will try to use a computer model instead of an animal, but that animal model is very important for a lot of medications and drugs we're trying to develop," said Mankowski.

After seeing the videos of monkeys in cages posted all over the internet, many of you have reached out to ABC15 to express concern about the monkeys in the desert.

Cassandra Randall was so upset she drove up to the facility gates and left a note saying she hoped there were no animals being harmed in the facility.

"I hope there are no animal experiments taking place there. You breed them and trap them for experiments? That's very evil in my eyes," said Randall. She said she and her son were praying for the animals.

Mankowski said the animals were kept in very good conditions. They had both inside and outside enclosures. The inside enclosures were air-conditioned. They chose Arizona for the climate and the availability of the facility on tribal land. Mankowski said the monkeys were suited for this weather.

"I can assure everybody that these animals are being well taken care of.  We have very strict rules and regulations on the type of care we provide to these animals. They're not abandoned and neglected. We do have employees who take care of these animals around the clock, 7 days a week, 365 days a year."

ABC15 asked Mankowski about previous citations the University of Washington had been issued by the USDA office of animal welfare, involving other lab research animals such as Macaques, rabbits, and guinea pigs in other facilities. Citations issued involved the death and inhumane treatment of these lab animals.

Mankowski said they worked closely with the USDA and the AALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care). AAALAC was listed as a private non-profit that worked to ensure humane conditions for lab research animals.

"The USDA comes out and does inspections all the time. We want to have very healthy animals for research we're doing so we take very good care of them," said Mankowski.

You can view all the videos of the monkey facility taken by Jesse Greer HERE.