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October 24, 2012

Meet Ishan, a Rhesus Macaque Used in Research

Ishan spent his entire life in a campus laboratory

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    There are no known images of Ishan. This stock photo of a rhesus macaque gives an idea of what he may have looked like. Jan Skwara/iStockphoto.com

Ishan* was a rhesus macaque who was born and died in a university laboratory. His mother was Lilly, another monkey used in experiments at the same laboratory. (Read more about Lilly, who had four babies and underwent multiple experimental surgeries)

Harrowing life

Ishan suffered from numerous illnesses and infections during his twelve years in the laboratory and was recorded as “sick” 180 times. He experienced chronic diarrhea, many bouts of dehydration, constant changes in body weight, and hundreds of persistent infections of various types, including E. Coli and Giardia.

Many, if not all, of these illnesses and infections were likely a direct result of being held in a laboratory and used in experiments.

Ishan was subjected to many experiments and surgeries while at the university laboratory. At one point he was on an IV for 14 days, which likely involved him being placed in a vest and tethered. He also underwent the dulling of all four canine teeth and the pulp capping of eight teeth (removal of tooth decay near the tooth nerve). Dulling the canine teeth is commonly performed on male monkeys in laboratories; some laboratories pull out the canine teeth altogether.

Severe distress

On 49 occasions, Ishan spent 1,475 days (more than four years) caged alone and was administered 2,266 doses of 35 different substances.

Monkeys, highly social and perceptive animals, experience psychological distress when they are housed alone, handled by humans, or moved to unfamiliar places.

Laboratory life

In the wild, a rhesus macaque's diet includes fruit, seeds, roots, and bark. Rhesus monkeys are very social animals with troops ranging in size from 20-200 males and females. Sadly, Ishan was never able to interact with other macaques in a natural environment. He spent his entire life in a laboratory cage.

Untimely death

Ishan died two weeks after the surgical insertion of implants into his left shoulder for a heart activity study. At the time of his death he was infected with parasites. He was only 12 years old. In the wild, rhesus macaques have an average lifespan of 25 years.

In 2010, more than 110,000 primates like Ishan were being kept in U.S. laboratories. Approximately 70,000 of them were used in harmful experiments. The rest (approximately 40,000) were used as “breeders” to produce babies for the research industry.

* "Ishan" is the name we gave this monkey. If he was given a name at the laboratory where he lived, it is not mentioned in his records.

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