Iberia

Apr 11, 2013 2:05 PM by Tonya LaCoste

USDA investigation into Chimp's death; Committee asks AG to investigate

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows an eight-year-old chimpanzee that died en route from a biomedical research laboratory in Maryland to the New Iberia Research Center showed signs it was sick during the May 2011 trip.

"Chaos" was one of four chimpanzees returning to NIRC after being used for research at Bioqual, Inc. Stone Oak Farms and Transports, an Opelousas company that specializes in transporting laboratory animals, was hired to transport the chimpanzees. Chaos was two years old when he arrived at Bioqual in July 2005 and was used for Hepatitis B and Norwalk virus research.

After reviewing the USDA investigation and affidavits, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has asked the Louisiana Attorney General to investigate. The committee also has asked that Stone Oak Farms and Transports be suspended from transporting other animals. Dr. John Pippin, the PCRM's director of academic affairs, said Choas died a horrible death.

According to the USDA investigation, drivers stopped during the trip for a welfare check of the primates and noticed Chaos was lying down and acting abnormal. The owner of the transportation company discussed Chaos' condition with the National Institute of Health, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and NIRC. According to the USDA investigation, they determined the chimpanzee possibly had motion sickness and the drivers were instructed to continue.

The report says on the morning of May 31, 2011, when the chimpanzees were loaded into the trailer in individual cages, Chaos did not show signs of stress before loading or when waking from sedation, but all four chimpanzees "got excited when the doors on the transport trailer were closed."

Before the primates left Bioqual, the drivers were given fruits, vegetables, and biscuits for the chimpanzees. According to the USDA report, the drivers did not receive written certification that the chimps were offered food and water four hours before loading. "Nor did SOFT (the transportation company) request such documentation," the report states. It goes on to say that feeding and water instructions were not provided to the drivers.

While en route, a second welfare check determined Chaos "had changed positions in his cage and appeared to be doing fine." The investigation found that after the owner of the transportation company was updated of the situation, the owner instructed the drivers to stop checking on the chimps "as often due to added stress on the animals and to continue with transport to NIRC where there would be a veterinarian capable of caring" for Chaos. Ten hours later when the chimpanzees arrived at NIRC, Chaos was found dead in his cage, and the veterninarian who examined Chaos determined he had been dead about 10 hours.

A necropsy showed no abnormalities and cause of death was indeterminable. Further tissue testing of major organs was done at a lab in Oklahoma, and it was determined Choas died from anaphylactic shock. In his letter to the AG's office, Dr. Pippin states, "The ComPath Primate Histopathology Report stated as follows: "Causes of anaphylaxis include reaction to drugs, hormones, enzymes, food allergies and insect toxins. It can also be triggered by temperature extremes and exercise."

The USDA determined that the drivers, not the owner of the transportation company, should have determined whether Chaos was distressed and seek help at the nearest veterinary clinic. The investigation revealed that the transportation company should not have accepted the chimpanzees from the research lab in Maryland without having a written documentation that the chimps were offered food and water four hours before departing. The report said Bioqual was required to, but did not, attach written instructions for food and water to the outside of the chimpanzees' cages.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office confirms receiving Dr. Pippin's request for an investigation. "We are reviewing it to determine the proper course of action," Attorney General Director of Communications Amanda Larkins said.

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