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OU baboon facility to close within four years
By Sarah Kirby,, September 8, 2015

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City will shutter an El Reno baboon facility within three to four years following reports of the deaths of at least 23 young primates at the facility.

In a statement Tuesday, OUHSC Vice President James J. Tomasek said OU President David L. Boren reached the decision based on projected financial costs and “decreased prioritization of the program within the OU Health Sciences Center’s research strategic plan.”

In August, Boren ordered a full internal review of the facility. Inspection records maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service show it has been cited numerous times in recent years for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The inspection report, posted Jan. 25 on the department website, found that the staff at the facility sprayed 3-month-old baboons, leaving one “shivering and clearly distressed” and exposing all of them to the risk of hypothermia. The inspectors also found “an excessive buildup of grime, debris and excreta on the bars” of enclosures where 12 baboons were kept.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an activist group that monitors U.S. research laboratories, filed complaints with the Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

OU has said the program has enabled medical advances in combating human disease, and the primates live in conditions comparable to natural baboon habitats found in the wild.

In the statement, Tomasek said the OU HSC is working closely with the National Institutes of Health researchers and other stakeholders on a transition plan “that will honor its existing contractual obligations to ensure that current biomedical research projects are completed with the least possible disruption.”

Norman residents were pleased with the outcome of the review.
Primate adviser and Norman resident Robert Ingersoll, who graduated from OU, said the order is a “good first move.” 

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