Five of the so-called Silver Spring monkeys, which became the focus of a longstanding dispute over their treatment both while being used for research and after they were confiscated from a laboratory in 1981, are close to getting a home in a zoo, an outcome that some animal rights activists applaud.
The five macaque monkeys were among 17 seized at a Silver Spring lab by Montgomery County police six years ago after allegations of abuse by an activist posing as a research scientist. The monkeys were sent last week from a research center in Covington, La., where they had been housed since June 1986, to the San Diego Zoo for eventual placement in a small zoo at an unspecified location in California.
The five were control animals and therefore were not harmed in the experiments. Another nine surviving monkeys remain at the Delta Primate Research Center, run by Tulane University in Covington, and their future remains uncertain.
Peter Gerone, director of the research center, said the decision to move the five monkeys was made at the request of some members of Congress. The National Institutes of Health, the legal custodian of the animals, agreed to the request.
"It's a good day for the five," said Alex Pacheco, chairman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who initiated the 1981 police raid with what he claimed was evidence of poor conditions at the Silver Spring lab. "They're going from a world of isolation and depression to one where they'll see sunlight and have companionship."
Eight of the nine monkeys still in Covington have permanently damaged limbs and spinal cords as a result of the experiments performed in Maryland in 1981. The ninth, a rhesus monkey, was a control monkey, but it was not sent to San Diego because the zoo there does not house rhesus monkeys.
A decision on what to do with the eight injured monkeys won't will not be made before Jan. 1, Gerone said.