- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - An official who oversees the University of Oklahoma’s baboon program says its primate population is being reduced as the project prepares to close in the next three to four years.

Dr. James Tomasek at the university’s Health Sciences Center told The Norman Transcript (https://bit.ly/250bnZk ) the project has slowed its breeding program at its Fort Reno facility by more than 80 percent. The total number of baboons in the colony has been reduced by more than 10 percent in the past 10 months.

Tomasek said the center is working closely with the National Institutes of Health, researchers and others to ensure that research projects are completed with as little disruption as possible.

He declined to comment on future placement of the remaining baboons, which numbered 712 as of Feb. 23 at the OU Research Building and at Fort Reno. Tomasek said last year that baboons from the facility wouldn’t be euthanized “solely for the purpose of reducing the size of the colony.”

OU president David Boren had announced in September the program would come to an end. That came after animal rights groups raised concerns about findings of non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act by USDA veterinarian medical officers inspecting the facility.

Robert Ingersoll, a primatologist at Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary in Newcastle, said no single sanctuary would be able to house all of the university’s baboons.

“What’s the long term plan?” Ingersoll said. “What are the real numbers? They should already be working on the future right now, rather than continuing to breed and perpetuating the problem. We already have too many baboons.”

Ingersoll said he was appalled when he heard that a recent USDA inspection found two baboons had been left in an uncleaned enclosure for six weeks.

“We’re talking about live animals that have to live in their own (feces), and someone had to know,” Ingersoll said. “To go for 42 days . is unacceptable. It’s not as if those animals are inanimate objects.”

Tomasek said the Health Sciences Center is committed to complying with all federal and regulatory standards on animal welfare.

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Information from: The Norman Transcript, https://www.normantranscript.com


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