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Hendry County monkey breeder says tests are ‘usage’

LABELLE, Fla — The president of Hendry County’s oldest and largest monkey-breeding farm confirmed its “Panther Tracks” facility located near Immokalee performs tests on its monkeys.

Thomas Rowell confirmed exclusively with WINK News that part of Primate Products business operations includes “usage” — the practice of obtaining bodily specimines from non-human primates then selling them to buyers.

Rowell said this includes monkey body fluids such as blood, spinal fluid and saliva.

He says this accounts for all of the incidents reported to the USDA which falls under animal research, tests and experiments.

WINK News first obtained government inspection documents earlier this week, detailing the hundreds of tests performed by Primate Products in 2011.

In a 2012 pre-application permit filed with Hendry County’s planning and zoning department, Primate Products representative Ed Marshburn told county planners “no research or testing is being conducted on site.”

Hendry County officials claim they never knew the company was conducting tests or experiments and asked for the documents obtained by WINK News.  Officials have said animal experimentation would be a code violation.

A county spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday they are investigating possible code violations by Primate Products in light of the newly-discovered documents.
She says the county will make a decision regarding possible action against the company next week.

The announcement comes on the same day WINK News released a second set of government documents revealing more possible testing and experiments by another one of Hendry County’s monkey farms.

A 2007 USDA annual inspection showed hundreds of cases of testing or experiments on non-human primates by the Mannheimer Foundation.
The company operates “Haman Ranch” near LaBelle and had 2,398 primates, according a September inspection report.

A July 2013 inspection report revealed the facility violated documentation practices when surgeries were performed on nine monkeys.  The inspector reported surgery details were missing, and it was not indicated how or why the surgeries were performed.

WINK News went to Haman Ranch to ask about possible monkey testing and experiments at the site.  The facility’s security guard asked for the news crew to wait at the gate, but nobody from Haman Ranch ever came to answer questions.

Activists and angry Hendry County residents poured into the county’s board-of-commissioners meeting on Tuesday, declaring their displeasure with the non-public dealings with the monkey farms.

They say they were shocked to learn Primate Products expanded its operations in the county and is leasing facilities to another monkey-breeder, BioCulture.

Primate Products president Rowell said he could not discuss private business matters when asked if the property would now house more than 10,000 monkeys.

Rowell reaffirmed his position that his company has made large contributions to the county in its many years of operation, and reiterated that Primate Products was solicited by members of Hendry County’s economic development office 15 years ago before it built the monkey farm.

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