October 24, 2011
Stuart M. Zola, PhD
Yerkes National Primate Research Center
I am writing in response to the letter I received from you on October 3, 2011.
You state that Wenka is among the chimpanzees that are being used in the five-year aging and
cognitive study for which Yerkes received a $10 million federal grant in 2007. The most current
records provided show that Yerkes has 5 other chimpanzees that are also over 50 years of age.
These chimpanzees are listed as Cheeta age 54 (ID C0438), Lulu age 54 (ID C0476), Maxine age 54
(ID C0338), Martha age 51 (ID C0204), and Mary age 51 (ID C0202). Are these chimpanzees still held
at Yerkes and, if so, a part of the aging and cognitive study as well?
A Yerkes spokesperson stated to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on September 30 that Wenka is
currently being used in research that is “behavioral-based and doesn’t involve invasive procedures.”
Aging studies would typically employ repeated brain scans and other such technologies for which the
chimpanzees always require anesthesia, either by injection, or dart gun “knockdowns”. I have viewed
videos showing the use of anesthesia on chimpanzees and have read lab workers reports describing
the squeeze cages, dart guns, and the terror and distress it produces in them. Using anesthesia on
chimpanzees is an invasive procedure.
Science has already shown that chimpanzees do not experience age related shrinkage of the brain,
thus they do not suffer Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age related cognitive impairment. It is
questionable why chimpanzees would be used in studies of these diseases. The funding would be
better utilized studying the human volunteers.
According to former lab worker’s reports, Wenka is suffering severe dissociation from the trauma of
her many years in a laboratory. Given her condition, Wenka would not be an accurate subject in a
behavioral-based aging study. If Wenka were to be released to a sanctuary, Yerkes could still study
her remains after she is deceased.
A recent report from a former Yerkes lab worker stated that chimpanzees housed at the main center,
where we are told that Wenka is being kept, are not allowed any nesting material in their cages. The
only look I have had inside Yerkes’ main center is from viewing the documentary “Primate” by Fredrick
Wiseman. Wenka had already been held at Yerkes for nearly 20 years when this disturbing look inside
of Yerkes was released. If the lab worker’s report is accurate, conditions are quite the same as the
ones depicted in Fredrick Wiseman’s documentary.
You state in your letter that you are a supporter of a healthier world. I too am a supporter of a healthier
world, and mental health is equally as important as physical health. One of the most significant
challenges facing us as a species is the necessity to overcome our tendency to disregard the
wellbeing of others. Gaining the ability to extend compassion towards others is of primary importance
to a healthy world.
Given all that Yerkes has demanded from Wenka, forcing her to endure numerous procedures in the
stark environment of a research facility for most of her 57 years, using her for breeding and taking her
babies from her, I would expect that Yerkes could afford her a small amount of peace and comfort of a
sanctuary and the freedom to explore a bit of the natural world in her final years.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding the 5 other elder chimpanzees mentioned above, and
regarding my concern as to whether or not Wenka is being subjected to anesthesia.
I again ask to meet with you to discuss arraignments to move Wenka to a sanctuary.
Julie L. Robertson
Georgia Animal Rights and Protection
cc: Emory President James W. Wagner, PhD
Emory Healthcare Board of Directors
NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD