Michiana sanctuary gives retired primates used to testing another chance

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WINAMAC, Ind. (WNDU) - It's well known that primates are used for various types of research at universities across the country, and usually when their job is done, that also means the end of that animal's life.

But an animal sanctuary in Winamac aims to give some of them a second chance at life.

It is that that two types of primates normally found in Africa are getting another chance.

"The purpose of the sanctuary is to offer retirement to baboons and macaques that are retired from research universities or pharmaceutical companies," said Scott Kubisch, the director of Peaceable Primate Sanctuary.

The retired animals call Indiana – and specifically Peaceable Primate Sanctuary – home.

Historically, they wouldn't see life outside of being a research test subject.

"They're either passed on to other universities for more continuing research or they're put to sleep, or euthanized," Kubisch said.

In Winamac, they live on.

"So, there is a current movement to start retiring primates, so there's been some pressure put on universities to say, look, if you use them for research, then at least offer them a retirement after," Kubisch said.

They get medical care as well as being fed food donated by grocery stores in the area twice a day.

Kubisch worked as an animal keeper at a zoo for more than 20. Now, he's the director at Peaceable Primate Sanctuary.

"I saw a video of a baboon that was at a research facility, and I just thought that something better could be done for retirement, so I started the sanctuary from there," he said.

The sanctuary has 32 primates in total, ranging from 5 years old to 32. Kubisch says demand is growing to save these animals after research studies.

When a baboon or macaque arrives, they need time to adjust.

"A lot of primates are what we call singly housed, so they're probably kept by themselves, maybe not a lot of contact with other primates, whereas here we try to have them in more stable groups," Kubisch said. "So, we start a process of introducing them to other primates so that they can ultimately live in a larger group."

Giving these animals a second chance doesn't come free. Funding the operation is the hardest part.

"Most difficult would be just funding it on a daily basis," Kubisch said. "Operating costs are about $240,000 a year just to keep it running to pay our electric and propane bills and employees."

But it's worth it.

"I would say probably just seeing them being able to be a monkey," Kubisch said. "I think that's probably the thing that brings me the most joy, is just seeing them being outside, to be with other monkeys, to kind of just do what they want."