University pays penalty in primate deaths

ULL fined in 2011 cage deaths of 3 macaques

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette paid a penalty of $38,571 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the agency’s investigation of the deaths of three primates in 2011 and the injury of a chimpanzee last year at the university’s New Iberia Research Center.

New Iberia Research Center officials self-reported the incidents in 2011 and 2012, university officials said in a news release issued Friday.

“Our primary concern is always the safety and welfare of the primates in our care. We regret these incidents and have made changes intended to reduce the chances of reoccurrences,” said Ramesh Kolluru, the university’s interim vice president for research.

On May 26, 2011, the remains of three rhesus macaques were discovered in the chute of an outdoor cage where the animals were housed, then NIRC director Dr. Jeff Rowell said following the incident. At the time, the USDA cited the center for failing to make daily observations of their animals, which is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Act.

Following the incident, the NIRC subsequently reassigned personnel, took disciplinary actions, revised related standard operating procedures and retrained personnel, university officials said Friday.

In April 2012, a chimpanzee housed in an indoor enclosure injured its hand and arm after it reached through a drain opening that connected to an outdoor chimpanzee enclosure and was injured by one of the chimpanzees housed outdoors.

The center, which self-reported the injury and was later cited by the USDA, modified the enclosure to offer adequate protection for the indoor chimpanzees, university officials said.

The USDA assigned a penalty but did not specify penalty amounts for the separate incidents, university officials said.

Kolluru said Friday that the center will continue to evaluate its “standard operating procedures and practices to ensure the safety and welfare of our primates.”

In May 2010, the NIRC paid an $18,000 settlement to the USDA related to alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act that were documented by inspectors in 2009.

No signs of animal mistreatment were found, but inspectors cited six areas of noncompliance with the federal law designed to protect research animals.

The inspectors’ visit followed complaints made by the Humane Society of the United States, which released a video captured by a Humane Society investigator working undercover at the center.