“How fortunate we didn’t have these animal tests in the 1940’s, for penicillin would probably never been granted
a license, and possibly the whole field of antibiotics might never have been realized.” – Sir Alexander Fleming,
Noble Prize winner for discovering penicillin (penicillin is lethal to guinea pigs)
Yerkes National Primate Research Center
Yerkes National Primate Research Center houses 3,400 primates at two locations, a 25-acre main center on the campus
of Emory University in Atlanta and a 117-acre facility in Lawrenceville, GA. The main center, which contains most of
Yerkes biomedical research laboratories, has approximately 1,200 nonhuman primates and 13,000 rodents, and
thousands of other animals. The Lawrenceville facility has approximately 2,200 nonhuman primates, and is used to
breed primates for use in experiments. Yerkes is owned by Emory University. Yerkes has been criticized for primate
housing conditions, addiction experiments, use of chimpanzees in viral infection experiments, animal welfare violation,
pointless and extremely cruel maternal deprivation and early life stress experiments, and refusal to deal publicly with
animal testing issues. Emory's are considered to be among the most physically and psychologically destructive
experiments being conducted today.
Emory Professor Michael Davis leads research on early life stress and responses to fear and anxiety in rhesus monkeys.
Dr. Davis takes infant monkeys away from their frantic mothers and straps them into full body restraint chairs inside of
wooden boxes while repeatedly startling them with noise of up to 120 decibels (equivalent to the intensity of thunder,
pneumatic drills and airplane engines). He then measures their heart rates while they struggle. His theory is that early
maternal separation and induced torture will make monkeys permanently anxious.
Another group, led by Yerkes director, Stuart Zola, studies early life stress on primates' cognitive development. Zola’s
past experiments have involved cutting lesions in monkeys’ brains and tying them to restraint chairs. He now uses
severe stress to impair, and then measure cognitive deficits in monkeys. His groups also conduct drug addiction, and
fear and anxiety responses on monkeys who have been subjects of "early life stress" experiments.
Taxes for Torture
“There are, in fact, only two categories of doctors and scientists who are not opposed to animal research: those
who don’t know enough about it, and those who make money on it.” – Dr. Werner Hartinger, MD
Researchers at Emory University received $539.7 million from external funding agencies in fiscal year 2011. About 69
percent of the funds, or $370.7 million, were granted by federal agencies, led by the National Institute of Health with
$318.8 million. Emory School of Medicine received $348.4 million, and the Yerkes National Primate Center received
Billions of Dollars Wasted
“What good does it do you to test something in a monkey? You find five or six years from now that it works in the
monkey, and then you test it in humans and you realize that humans behave totally different from monkeys, so
you’ve wasted five years.” – Dr. Mark Feinberg, AIDS researcher at the Emory Vaccine Center quoted in The Atlanta-
Journal Constitution, Sept. 1997
In 1997, Yerkes director Thomas Insel stated to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “sadly, the (animal rights) protesters
don’t understand the importance of AIDS research. Nonhuman primates provide the best model for developing
treatments and vaccines for AIDS.”
Since 1984, billions of dollars have been wasted on the attempt to infect chimpanzees with AIDS. Many AIDS-infected
chimpanzees were locked in small steel-and-glass isolation chambers in laboratories, where highly social animals
became psychotic from stress and isolation. The stress of confinement also suppressed the chimpanzees’ immune
systems, making accurate AIDS studies impossible. After years of trying to infect chimpanzees with the virus, a 15 year
old chimpanzee at Yerkes named Jerome died of AIDS. Jerome only developed AIDS because he had been injected with
three different strains of HIV, which formed a new hybrid unlike the ones found in humans.
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 80 HIV/AIDS vaccines that have passed animal testing have
failed in human clinical trials. Jerome’s death and the endless suffering of other nonhuman primates have only served to
draw precious research funds away from the study of the disease in humans. In 2006, Yerkes director Stuart Zola stated
to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they have quit trying to infect chimpanzee with HIV for “practical reasons.”
As far back as 1987, renowned AIDS researcher Dr. Allen Goldstein of George Washington University stated, “The
sooner we begin testing on humans, the sooner we’ll hopefully be able to develop a vaccine.”
Wenka is currently being used in an aging and cognitive study for which Yerkes received a $10 million dollar grant in
2007. This study is comparing the aging of humans, chimpanzees, and rhesus monkeys. Science has already shown
that chimpanzees do not suffer age-related shrinkage of the brain and thus do not suffer Alzheimer’s disease and other
age related cognitive impairment.
A Yerkes’ spokesperson stated to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on September 30, 2011 that Wenka is being used in
non-invasive behavioral studies. Typically, aging studies would involve repeated brain scans and other such
technologies, in which chimpanzees would always require anesthesia. Animal research facilities do not consider
anesthesia an invasive procedure. Because chimpanzees are several times stronger than humans, most must be
anesthetized for even minor procedures such as drawing blood or injections. A “knockdown” involves one or more labs
workers approaching the chimpanzee through the bars with a dart gun loaded with anesthetic. It often requires several
darts to “down” a chimpanzee as he/she screams and thrashes around in a futile attempt to avoid being shot. Darts
sometimes hit them in the face or other sensitive areas.
Another anesthetic method is the use of a “squeeze-cage”. The cage walls move inward so that the chimpanzees are
literally squeezed between the bars, giving the lab workers access to their legs or arms. Both methods are so terrifying
that the chimpanzees often lose control of their bladder or bowels. Although animal research facilities do not consider
anesthesia an invasive procedure, The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act currently awaiting passage in
Congress does. If the legislation is passed this type of treatment of chimpanzees will be illegal.
According to a recent report from a former lab worker, Wenka is currently being housed at Yerkes’ main center in
Atlanta. The lab worker stated that the chimpanzees kept at the main center are not allowed any nesting material in their
concrete and steel cages. Lab workers have also stated that Wenka is suffering from extreme dissociation from the
trauma of her many years in a laboratory. Given her condition, Wenka would not make an accurate subject in a
behavioral-based aging study because her compromised mental condition is not due to aging, but to severe and
prolonged abuse and trauma.
In October 2007, the USDA levied a $15,000 fine against Yerkes for repeat violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.
The Animal Welfare Act offers only minimal protection to some research animals, although mice, rats, birds, reptiles, and
amphibians are not protected by the law at all. Even animals who are covered by the law can be burned,
shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, forcibly restrained, addicted to drugs, and brain- damaged—no procedures or
experiments, regardless of how trivial or painful they may be, are prohibited by law. When valid non-animal research
methods are available, no law requires experimenters to use such methods instead of animals.
We Pay Taxes, Let Us In
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially when the well-being of a person or animal is at stake.
Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds inflicted on our soul when we look the other way.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The public and media are not allowed inside of Yerkes’ main center. In 1974, Yerkes’s did allowed famed filmmaker
Fredrick Wiseman access to the facility in order to film a documentary. Wiseman’s PRIMATE documentary reveals the
stark reality of life in a laboratory, and the uncaring, routinized treatment of animals that are confined in rows
of barren steel and concrete cages and forced to undergoing painful procedures and vivisection. Wiseman’s
documentary also captures the researchers blatantly discussing the most effective use of rhetoric to convince the public
that the research is necessary and beneficial, as the public’s belief would have effect on federal grants. They even
jokingly wonder if Alexander Fleming would have discovered penicillin had he been given government grants to study
When the documentary appeared on television, audiences were outraged. Researchers, apparently lacking
understanding of normal human feelings of compassion for animals, were incredulous at the audience’s reaction to the
film. This was the last time any camera was so freely allowed into any animal research facility in the US.
Emory University refuses to answer requests, made through the Freedom of Information Act and the Georgia Opens
Record Act, concerning the animals at the facility. Emory states that because they are a privately owned facility they are
not obligated to answer any questions from the public, regardless of the fact that they receive a large amount of federal
Emory’s approach has been effective at keeping the atrocities at Yerkes out of the public’s mind as most people in
Atlanta are unaware that 12,000 primates are confined and tortured in laboratories on Emory’s campus, some of which
have been confined in cages within the facility for decades. The public is also unaware that the barbaric and
pointless experiments are funded with our tax dollars.
How You Can Help
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
You can help Wenka and the primates at Yerkes by simply by letting others know that they are there. Please share this
website and information through Facebook and Twitter.
Georgia Animal Rights and Protection is dedicated to gaining Wenka’s release to a sanctuary and helping all of the
primates at Yerkes, and public awareness is vital to this mission.
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