On June 15th, a 2-year-old female macaque was noticed to be missing from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center Field Station near Atlanta. (Yerkes is associated with Emory University.) The monkey does not harbor any diseases and therefore is not dangerous to people in that way. The macaque on the loose is a wild animal though, and not a pet, so it could bite or scratch, and staying away from the animal has been advised. In their official statement the Yerkes center said, “If you see a monkey, please do not approach it. Call the Yerkes Research Center at 404-727-7732. We will work with Gwinnett County’s animal control authorities to respond appropriately.” (PETA filed a complaint claiming improper care of primates.)
Macaques are the most commonly used primates at Yerkes and they have been used for research on aging, reproductive biology, biological basis of social behavior, behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy, maternal care, malaria, organ transplantation and an experimental HIV/AIDS vaccine. (Macaques are actually the most studied nonhuman primate both in labs and in the field.) GeoVax HIV-1 Vaccine is one of the leading HIV/AIDS vaccine. It was approved by the FDA for use in clinical trials.
They are used extensively in research due to their anatomical and physiological similarity to human primates. Macaques have been used in research studies for many years, and have been studied in a semi-natural state for about seventy years. Their study led to the development of the sociobiology field. Macaques have been used by humans for research because they adapt well to different living conditions and are survivors, for example, infant macaques just two days old can swim.
The Yerkes research facility is about 30 miles north of Atlanta in a wooded area. In 2006 they had about 3,500 primates there and at another location in Atlanta. Five years ago they had a number of sootie mangabeys, which are an endangered African primate. There was some controversy at the time over a proposal to allow them to be experimented upon for an HIV study.
Image Credit: Public Domain.