NPR

Scientists Push To House More Lab Monkeys In Pairs

Enhancing a research monkey's life by housing it with a pal often doesn't hurt the study, says a researcher who's done it. In her own experience, she says, "it actually helped to improve the science."
Macaques are social animals, whether in a group enclosure like this one at the Gelsenkircen zoo in western Germany, or in the wild. But many research monkeys are still housed in separate cages. / PATRIK STOLLARZ / Getty Images

In a small, windowless room at Johns Hopkins University, pigtail macaques jump around in cages. The braver ones reach out between the metal bars to accept pieces of apricot with their long fingers.

In one cage, a monkey hangs back in the corner. At first it looks like he's all alone in there, until veterinarian Bob Adams points out, "No, he's got a friend." Another monkey is clinging to his back, almost hidden.

Not too long ago, these guys wouldn't have had a pal to hold on to.

Like humans, monkeys are social animals. But for two decades, researchers here routinely put animals in separate cages after experimentally infecting them with a monkey form of HIV. The concern was that cagemates might swap viruses and mess up the science.

Then, a few years ago, Adams urged the research

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