In the early 1970’s the world’s supply of Rhesus Monkeys for medical research dropped as India/Nepal stopped exporting them for religious/humanitarian reasons,
Charles River Animal Breeders in Boston, MA purchased Loggerhead Key and renamed it Key LOIS (Laboratory Observing Island Simians) and filled the island with Rhesus Monkeys.
I routinely took school groups by there via boat, anchoring just offshore to discuss “issues with the introduction of non-indigenous” species”. We liked watching the monkeys, too.
Still owned by Charles River Animal Breeders, the operation proved inadequate for several reasons;
1) the monkeys fought incessantly and literally tore the leaves of the red mangroves apart.
2) The salt water intrusion took a hard toll on their health and vitality, an absolute requirement for the reasons to breed them domestically in the first place.
Apparently, “humane” indoor cage breeding protocols were researched and implemented.
More information and Citations below.
In 1972 Charles River became involved in breeding germfree Rhesus monkeys. Foster took part in the trapping expedition in the foothills of the Himalayas that procured the first animals, from which the company was then able to create a disease-free stock of 800 that were transported to two isolated islands in the Florida Keys that Foster bought and named Key Lois and Key Raccoon. The monkey population quickly grew to 3,000. The animals received monkey chow each day from workers who visited the islands and periodically trapped young subjects, some 400 to 500 each year, that were then sold to laboratories at premium prices, ranging from $1,500 to $4,500 each. The demand for the monkeys increased after India banned the export of Rhesus monkeys in 1978, following the revelation that the U.S. military was testing the effects of neutron radiation on the animals. The Indian prime minister considered that research to violate a 1955 agreement, which restricted the use of Indian monkeys to medical purposes only. By 1981, however, Florida conservationists were beginning efforts to force Charles River to remove its monkey colonies, an issue that would heat up considerably 15 years later.
In the 1990s breeders and users of laboratory animals received even more criticism from animal rights activists. For Charles River much of that bad publicity emanated from the company’s monkey colonies in the Florida Keys, where community leaders and conservationists combined their voices. The monkeys ravaged state-protected red mangrove trees, the leaves of which had proven to be irresistibly tasty. Environmentalists claimed that the water surrounding the keys were tainted by untreated fecal matter. Several monkeys managed to escape the colonies, mostly wandering off during low tide, which prompted residents of nearby islands to join the protests, fearful that a hurricane could spread monkeys in all directions. Even though the monkeys were well monitored to ensure they were disease free, locals worried about marauding monkeys with rabies. The rhetoric became even more heated from animal rights activists. When the company attempted to move some monkeys to a Houston facility, the director of the Houston Animal Rights Team maintained that “Charles River is nothing more than an animal slave trader.” After several more years of court hearings, the company’s monkey colonies would be evicted from the Florida Keys.
This is a fascinating story. However, I don’t think I understand the story completely. I’m wondering if this island is now a monkey sanctuary or sort of a 'farm’, breeding monkeys for reseach purposes. ??
good point, MM. I’ve added more information and a citation of the Charles River Animal Breeders published paper chain semi-documenting the events.
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