Monkeys Occupy New Sheltered Quarters at Oregon Regional Primate Research Center

12/17/01    Portland, Ore.

A group of monkeys at OHSU's Oregon Regional Primate Research Center is cavorting on indoor jungle gyms and getting settled into their new home - a series of state-of-the-art open-air shelters that protects them from the weather and helps them form social groups more easily. About 250 of the Center's rhesus monkeys have moved into four open-air shelters so far, all of which feature metal and glass roofing, removable screens for protection from direct sunlight, heated floors and roll-down walls for winter and summer temperature control.

The new sheltered housing for the Center's breeding colony of rhesus macaques realizes a dream of former OPPRC head veterinarian Stephen Kelley, D.V.M., who first proposed the innovative housing in 1994. Funding for the $5.5 million project, which will house about 500 monkeys in the 10 new open-air shelters, was provided jointly by the ORPRC and by the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supplies the ORPRC core budget. Construction began early this year.

Visitors to the Center will notice that the shelters resemble large greenhouses -- except that they are equipped with monkey bars and jungle gyms.

"We've already had positive feedback from visitors," said ORPRC head veterinarian, Gwendalyn Maginnis, D.V.M. "These shelters are a model for primate housing around the country."

Several factors led to this innovative approach to housing the Center's breeding colony. The shelters allow the monkeys to have greater flexibility in forming social groups and permit veterinarians to have closer observation of the animals and easier access for diagnosis or treatment. In addition, the structures provide greater weather protection. The -more- Center pioneered outdoor breeding corrals during the 1970s, a time of more temperate weather cycles compared to the much wetter winters and hotter summers of the 1990s.

The 10 shelters are located within a two-acre enclosure. All of the shelters contain two units that house 25-30 monkeys each. These "duplexes" are 20 feet high, with gabled roofs of clear corrugated polycarbonate covering 2,740 square feet of heated floor space. Overhead radiant heaters and ventilation fans mitigate temperatures below 45 or above 87 degrees. The structures' exterior bays are enclosed by welded-wire mesh, while their center and indoor bay consists of three concrete masonry walls and a roll-down door.

Construction of another 10 duplexes is on the drawing board, pending a recent grant application to the National Institutes of Health.

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