By | April 24, 2023
The “successful” rehabilitation of the pink macaque, after 17 years in the laboratory
  • Created in 1974, the Refuge de l’Arche shelters some 1,300 animals, most of them exotic, on its site in Château-Gontier in Mayenne.
  • Some attempt to rehabilitate after a lifetime of being tested in labs.
  • More than 2,000 primates are used today for research in France.

“You could say that she has come a long way…”, confides her caretaker. There world laboratory animal day is also an opportunity for shelters to tell beautiful stories, those of survivors who managed to find a peaceful life outside the labs. Rose is one of them. This macaque monkey, now 25 years old, spent seventeen years of her life locked in cages of medical laboratories where she underwent experiments. Until an intervention, in 2015, of the Group of reflection and action for the animal (Grail) and its placement in Ark Refuge (Mayenne), an animal park specializing in the preservation of exotic animals.

“She lived in a small cage, alone after being separated from her daughter, says Elodie Le Donge, animal manager at Refuge de l’Arche. She was only fed kibble and never saw the outside. The primate then had weak muscles, suffered from a lack of agility, repetitive gestures linked to stress and difficulty in feeding itself. “He had to learn to peel fruits and vegetables, to move around in a large space. Initially, she fell several times while jumping. »

“Even with patience it was not easy”

After five months of solo adaptation, Rose was placed in a cage near two male macaques. An important step to learn the social codes of living in a group without risking injury. “Macaques need interactions with each other. They communicate a lot by shouting, by mimicry. Rose didn’t know how to do it. It took him quite a while. Even today we hear it much less than the others. »

Cohabiting gradually with her peers, during a process of an additional year, Rose has since lived without any apparent sequelae from her previous life, except for the two tattoos still visible on her abdomen and face. “She occupies her entire enclosure, she plays, she eats very well, says Elodie Le Donge. She even has moments of grooming with the male Adi, which is a sign of complicity among primates. We can speak of a successful rehabilitation. Even with patience it was not easy given his age. Many laboratory animals retain traumas from their past, which can go as far as self-mutilation. »

Baboons, crab-eating macaques, a lemur…

In the 1930s, rhesus macaques underwent experiments for research on the blood from which comes the name of blood groups A/B/C, explains Le Refuge de l’Arche. Today, in France, more than 2,000 primates are used each year in basic and preclinical research. They participate indirectly in testing new molecules or developing new drugs.

In addition to Rose, the Mayenne animal park is also home to around thirty crab-eating macaques, around fifteen baboons, as well as a hybrid lemur, all from the laboratory. Its other boarders have been abandoned or taken away from their owners. A total of 1,300 animals are thus on the site accessible to visitors. Today almost complete on its 23 hectares, the Refuge de l’Arche, which employs 32 people, constantly seeks to develop its means to fulfill its missions.

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