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OHSU Explains 10 Accidental Primate Deaths

Rhesus macaques at Oregon Health and Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Rhesus macaques at Oregon Health and Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Dave Miller/OPB

A watchdog group that monitors animal experimentation in research labs is targeting Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) for the deaths of 10 primates over the past two years. Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) has identified four incidents at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) that it says demonstrate “a clear pattern of incompetence that has killed multiple primates.”

The incidents all involved the Center’s large population of rhesus monkeys:

  • Six monkeys died in a fight that may have been caused by increased agitation due to construction happening nearby.
  • One monkey died from “fatal fasting syndrome” because it wasn’t eating food from a vendor that had miscalculated the ingredients.
  • One monkey died after bolting into a transportation cage and hitting her head against a bar at high speed.
  • Two died from unknown causes during a transfer to a health checkup.

OHSU says it reported the deaths to the federal agencies that monitor its work. In the case of the fight, ONPRC says it moved the monkeys to an adjacent cage further away from the construction.  The federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare responded to OHSU’s report by saying “the action taken to resolve the issue and prevent recurrence is appropriate.” No fines have been issued. SAEN is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fine OHSU $100,000 for the 10 deaths. The USDA enforces the Animal Welfare Act and fined OHSU $11,679 in 2012 for the deaths of five monkeys and escape of nine others in 2009.


  • Michael Budkie: Co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now!
  • Kerry Taylor: Associate director for comparative medicine at Oregon National Primate Research Center.

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