Clipboard: Fourth monkey death reported at Harvard research center

Harvard Medical School has suspended new experiments at the New England Primate Research Center after a cotton top tamarin monkey died Sunday, the fourth monkey death at the lab in less than two years, Carolyn Y. Johnson reported in today’s Globe. The death occurred the same day the US Department of Agriculture released an inspection report highlighting three other deaths at the center and further deficiencies in care of the animals.

A Harvard official told Johnson that, while the death on Sunday is being investigated, it is likely related to a lack of water. The monkey did not have a water bottle in its cage.

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Johnson wrote:

After returning from an hourslong visit to the primate center yesterday, Dr. Jeffrey Flier, Harvard Medical School’s dean, said that Sunday’s death was “utterly shocking’’ and that immediate actions are being taken to protect animals.

New experiments have been suspended immediately, and a worker involved in the care of the monkey was placed on administrative leave, he said in an interview. Teams of supervisors and veterinary staff have been making rounds of the entire facility, which includes multiple buildings. They are checking on each animal and each cage, assessing the monkeys’ health, and food and water status, and looking for other issues that could affect the animals’ welfare.

That level of oversight will continue, Flier said, until leadership is satisfied that such intense scrutiny is no longer necessary or new procedures are developed. He is also in the process of establishing a committee including outside specialists, who will review the policies, operations, and management of the facility.

Harvard reported Sunday’s death to the US Department of Agriculture. A spokesman at that agency said an inspector will visit the research center and information about this case will be added to the ongoing investigation of the facilities.

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