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The Vivarium

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In general terminology, a Vivarium is a place where living plants or animals are stored. At Vivariums at research centers and Universities, this is where animals reside most of their waking hours.

In a monkey Vivarium a curious thing takes place. Monkeys are a social species and develop a social order in the wild. In these Vivariums they reside separate cages that also physically separate them from touching each other. Yet they still manage to create a social order amongst themselves, even when they can’t see each other in the same room. (Cages typically have solid walls with a grilled steel wire door.)

Although monkeys may not be able to see each other, they can hear each other. Sounds without visual cues are apparently enough to establish an order. Although biology isn’t my line of work, I have learned these details from Ph.D. researchers who work these animals every day.

Vivariums are also highly secured areas to protect the animals against release into the public or kidnapping by animal rights people. The security also protects animals against disease and contamination by humans. Anyone who has had TB at some point their life has an antigen in their blood stream. Although this antigen is harmless to us, one sneeze from a former TB patient is deadly to a Rhesus monkey.

Monkeys can carry a form of Herpes that lethally attacks internal human organs. It ends in death in just three days. There is no treatment or cure once someone is infected. To prevent this, monkeys used for research must undergo several months of quarantine and biological testing before released to a Vivarium for research. To date, only one female lab technician has died from this.

As upsetting the thought of Vivariums is too many, these facilities are an essential part of our lives. Without them, life-saving drugs and medical procedures could never, ever be tried and approved for use on human beings. But how many animal rights activists who are suddenly sick and in pain with possible deadly consequences will be thinking about a monkey in a cage?

I think not – they will be screaming at the nurses and doctors, “Give me relief, no matter what it takes!”

Vivariums are expensive to build and maintain, and require that a veterinarian is available around the clock all year long. Cleaning, feeding and watering must be done every day of the year without fail even on holidays. A Rhesus monkey costs about the same to purchase as a brand new mid-size automobile.

Cryptosporidium is a painful stomach virus human beings can contract through bad water which will eventually run its course.

But Cryptosporidium is one reason monkeys are euthanized, because they rarely get over the virus.

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