The CNPRC as viewed from County Road 98

County Road 98 at Hutchison Dr.

The California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) is a secure research facility located at Pedrick Road and Hutchison Drive. It houses over 4,000 rhesus macaque and titi monkeys. The center is controversial to some (see Urban Art for example), leading some detractors to refer to it as the "Monkey Farm". The $24 million facility has made recent discoveries about autism and conducts AIDS research (via SIV studies) among other scientific and medical projects.

The CNPRC is one of seven centers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of the Director. The National Primate Research Centers are a unique resource for investigators studying human health and disease. They offer the opportunity to assess the causes of disease and new treatment methods in nonhuman primate models that closely recapitulate humans, providing essential information before proceeding to human clinical trials that lead to new therapies and surgical procedures that benefit human health and quality of life.

The CNPRC has a diverse program encompassing many aspects of biology and medicine from basic to translational research, focused into four primary areas:

Brain, Mind, and Behavior. Neuroanatomical and biobehavioral organization, neuroimmune interactions and the etiology of autism, social bonds and social development, the human-animal interface, and social networks. Specialize in research on sociality, temperament, and development with a lifespan approach that utilizes measures from early stages to aged animals, including new primate models of human psychiatric diseases.

Infectious Diseases. Preclinical / translational studies on a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens (e.g., SIV, cytomegalovirus, H. pylori), vaccine and drug interventions, and mechanisms of host-microbe interactions. Lifespan-related research through studies that focus on the impact of age on infection, pathogenesis, and vaccine efficacy.

Reproductive Sciences and Regenerative Medicine. Gamete biology and reproductive toxicology, fetal models of congenital and acquired diseases, unique strengths in gene- and cell-based therapy / regenerative medicine and tissue engineering tailored to age across the lifespan. Long-standing commitment to development and application of novel in vivo imaging technologies and tools (e.g., ultrasound, optical imaging, PET/CT), and studies that focus on healthy aging, the menopausal transition, and the impact of environmental agents on reproduction and development.

Respiratory Diseases. Airway development and remodeling, age-related impact of environmental exposure, and lung immunity – asthma, environmental tobacco smoke, influenza, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Unique areas of expertise in pulmonary research from toxicology and neurophysiology to immunology and airway remodeling. Major emphasis is pediatric models of lung disease with an overall goal of understanding how early life environments impact health outcomes with maturity.

Established in 1962, the CNPRC is located at the University of California, Davis on 300 acres. The center’s staff of around 300 individuals is comprised of scientists; veterinarians; animal care technicians; specialists in pathology, animal husbandry, behavior and enrichment; undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students and other trainees; and laboratory and administrative personnel.

Members of the scientific staff – representing a variety of disciplines including cell and developmental biology, genetics, psychology, physiology, reproductive biology, development, virology, and immunology – hold joint appointments in academic departments in Schools (e.g., Medicine and Veterinary Medicine) and Colleges (e.g., Engineering, Letters and Science) on the UC Davis campus. Affiliate Scientists collaboratively work with Core Scientists and conduct research projects in their area of interest and benefit from the extensive expertise of the scientific staff. 

The center's conference room, Room 1001 hosts weekly seminars on cutting-edge topics in biomedicine. The room capacity is 98.

Because of CNPRC Research:

​• HIV-infected mothers can give birth to HIV-free infants and HIV-infected people can live long and healthy lives

• Link found between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and adverse effects on prenatal, neonatal and childhood lung development, cognitive function, and brain development

• Premature infants are able to survive if they are born before 28 weeks of gestation

• Gene therapies are being used to treat patients with mild Alzheimer’s. New gene therapy research has shown reversal of damage and restoration of brain function is possible in severe forms of Alzheimer’s and recently completed 10-year Clinical Trials with successful results

• Link found between an infant’s temperament and asthma

• Exposure to high levels of fine particle pollution (e.g. wildfire smoke) adversely affects both development of the immune system and lung function

• A vaccine modeling HCMV infection has proved safe and effective

• Formula-fed infants experience metabolic stress that could make them more susceptible than breast-fed infants to a wide range of lifelong health issues

• BPA exposure in utero has been shown to cause adverse changes in fetal lung, oocyte and mammary gland development

• Link found between maternal auto-antibodies and increased risk of a child having autism


The facility has had many monkeys die accidentally: one of the first fatalities to be reported occurred in February 2002, when a monkey crawled into a drain pipe and was killed by an impeller.

A monkey completely escaped from the facility in 2003, leading many to question whether UC Davis was competent enough to handle a proposed bio-defense lab. The bio-defense lab, if created, would have infected monkeys with dangerous diseases such as anthrax and smallpox; an escaped monkey from the facility would have therefore posed a potential threat to the community (source). A higher level laboratory would have better security.

Outside the facility — but still part of the center's monkey population — seven (of eight in the room) long-tailed Macaque research monkeys died on August 21, 2004 of heat exhaustion after a heater malfunctioned. The temperature rose from its normal 75 degrees F. to 115 degrees F. The event occurred in the Animal Resources Science building south of campus, which served as an overflow facility for the Primate Center. After this happened the overflow facility was shut down.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, an animal rights group, alleges that a whistleblower letter was sent to the USDA and UCD in July 2008. They say it listed identification numbers for 86 monkeys found dead in their cages and another 19 that were hospitalized in an emaciated or dehydrated state. They also claim that as a result of the USDA ignoring the whistleblower's letter, at least 36 more animals died. The university spokesperson stated he was unaware of any such letter or allegations. In response, the animal rights group produced a necropsy report of a monkey that died in 2010 and was covered in mud and gravel. The university spokesperson, Andy Fell, noted that such a condition also occurs in the wild, and is due to normal monkey behavior, noting "Unfortunately, they’re pretty rough sometimes." The USDA, who has inspected the facility 19 times from January 1st to April 19th, 2011, said that they would investigate the claims in the letter. (source).

The California Aggie ran an article on 4/23/09 about a commercial being run by Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, an animal rights group

Some research at the Center involves deliberately inducing states of "acute and chronic stress" in primates, leading some to question the quality of care and consequently the value or worth of conducting some of these experiments. Some of the methods of "stress induction" include strapping the primates to immobilization devices for two hours at a time, daily, for seven days, to study the effects of stress upon the mind and body (source).

According to the Oct. 28, 2010, edition of the Sacramento Bee, a deadly new form of a virus infected about 24 titi monkeys at the center in May 2009, killing a total of 19 primates. A human researcher was also infected by the virus and yet never sought treatment for it, even after weeks of being sick, raising concern that she may have put the Davis human population at risk during that time frame. The incident was not reported until over a year later at a meeting of infectious-disease specialists in Canada. UC Davis officials said they had no knowledge of the matter until the general news media reported on it. It is currently unknown if the monkeys infected the researcher or if the researcher infected the monkeys. Recent research suggests the virus may have possibility originated from a macaque monkey, and somehow passed along due to lax or ignored safety protocols, to the titi monkeys and humans. However, the cross-species transmission is incredibly interesting to the scientific community, and sheds new light on adenovirus research and the need to monitor viral outbreaks.

On July 19 of 2012, SAEN (see above) gathered to protest the facility. In particular, they made allegations of a primate recently having been found strangled to death on a bungee cord, as well as another fatality of an emaciated primate, apparently severely dehydrated and ridden with maggots at the time of death.

Stories of the facility being "burned down in the '60s" are an urban legend, possibly fueled by the 1987 Animal Liberation Front attack on Thurman Laboratory. In fact, it was constructed during the early 1960s on the site of the old Pierce Ranch.

Leuren Moret, a controversial environmental commissioner in Berkeley and a UC Davis graduate, has stated that primates at the facility were subjected to mind-control experiments in the '60s.


Self-abuse is a common problem among primates at the Davis Center. Although the level of visible injury from self-abuse is most often non-existent or mild, the behaviors can sometimes lead to severe self-biting, hair-plucking, or head-banging. These traits are commonly found in the more socially-isolated, indoor primates at the Center (source). Not all indoor primates at the Davis Center are single-housed, but at least some are. Federal laws do not require single-housing cages to be very large, and this can therefore be a source of distress for the primates. Some of the cages holding adult rhesus monkeys are only 28 x 22 x 46 inches in size. Not surprisingly, the Center's official website only shows pictures of the monkeys that are held outdoors.

The Davis Center sometimes conducts experiments designed specifically to inflict physical and/or psychological distress in primates that are not under anesthesia, in order to study the physiological effects of acute, severe, and/or chronic stress in human beings, among other purposes. The desired effects are sometimes achieved by forcing the primates into immobilization devices for extended periods of time, with individual sessions lasting a maximum of two hours each, for up to seven consecutive days. According to the Davis Center's official FAQ on its website, the Animal Welfare Act "requires that any procedures causing more than slight or momentary discomfort be performed using appropriate pain-relieving drugs." Thus, the procedures that deliberately cause physiological and/or psychological stress seem to be in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Animal Welfare Act.

There is controversy as to what the "letter" even is. As the American Humane Society puts it, "Unfortunately, the regulations of the Animal Welfare Act include a definition of 'painful procedure' but not of 'distress' or 'distressful procedure.'" In 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture called on the public and the research community to comment on possible adoption of a definition of distress and to change the current pain and distress categorization system used by researchers to report to the USDA (source). In the absence of a definition of distress, this aspect of the Animal Welfare Act is, unfortunately, unenforceable. Nonetheless, the Davis researchers continually state that no primates experience "pain or distress" without anesthesia within their facility, even though causing the primates stress is the means through which the studies are conducted.

Another study began by surgically creating lesions in the brains of rhesus monkeys, in an area of the brain known as the amygdala. The experimenters then tried to induce fear in the monkeys, who were restrained in a custom-built primate chair within an isolation booth capable of creating total darkness, with bursts of air, white noise, and sudden flashes of light. The experimenters then performed the same fear induction methods on non-surgically altered monkeys (so that the monkeys would learn the fear startle response) to see if the fear startle response continued after the monkeys had been surgically altered. The stated goal of the study was to determine the role of the amygdala in acquiring, retaining, and expressing a "fear-potentiated startle." There seems to be a real question as to whether this end justifies the suffering of the monkeys.

Some people believe that the actions of the Davis Center are ethically problematic even if they are not illegal. It is clear that the primates are suffering; after all, the stated aim of some studies is to measure the effects of fear or stress, and they must be suffering to some extent if they are feeling fear or under stress. Reasons for believing these actions are unethical include: the belief that testing on any animal that can experience pain is unethical; believing that testing on animals of higher intelligence in particular (e.g., primates, dolphins) is unethical; or the belief that there may be some cases where the benefits of animal (or primate) testing outweigh the harms, but that the potential benefits of these particular experiments do not outweigh the harms caused.

Federal Citations

The California Aggie and the SacBee ran an article stating the USDA has officially cited UC Davis for animal cruelty in at least one case involving a primate that was involved in four separate studies even though it had several health issues up to and including self-inflicted injuries. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service denied a first appeal made by UC Davis. A second appeal is currently under review. If the appeal is denied, it could result in the loss of federal grants from the National Institute of Health which would severely hinder research potential in this field at UC Davis which relies heavily on this grant money for it's funding.

The violation was originally suspected by an animal rights organization that had come across the monkey's death report. The group notified the USDA and requested an official investigation.

The Center has been cited yet again, this time for the death of 19 monkeys.


The statement that severe self injury occurs at the center does not give any numbers, but implies that severe self injury is "common". It also cites a study as evidence for that statement that is specifically centered around remedying such abuse, as the study is entitled "Risk Factors and Remediation of Self-Injurious and Self-Abuse Behavior in Rhesus Macaques". This study is also not easily accessible to people who don't want to pay $30, or who aren't attending the college, so it is difficult to validate the accuracy of the claims made about its contents.

It isn't surprising that the center doesn't show the primates that are held inside in smaller cages, because A) those monkeys are almost certainly part of active experiments, and scientists guard their proprietary information just as jealously as corporations do theirs, and B) the center needs to watch out for their PR just like any other public entity and as such they know such pictures will lead to wacky animal-rights groups creating misleading media to push their own agenda.

It is true that the monkeys in the center are subject to some studies where they experience stress. These studies are hardly intolerable, as they consist of either briefly being startled or being in a chair for 2hrs a day. Since it would skew results to conduct more than one set of experiments on a single monkey, one of those two forms of stress is all that the monkey would experience.

Beyond that, understanding the physiological basis and consequences of stress is extremely important, as stress in humans can cause a broad variety of problems, such as increased susceptibility to disease, impaired developmental growth, increased weight and the diseases that leads to, increased drug use, insomnia, and depression, among others. By understanding it. we can find ways of curing it.

The center is regulated by applicable state and federal laws, and numerous inspections, some of which occurred without prior notice, have shown the center to be well within the confines set by those laws. Those laws themselves are created by the people, and by their elected representatives, so if there is an aspect to the law that the public dislikes, then it can be changed. If you don't like the situation there, write your lawmakers, but also write to the scientists that work there, so that you can get an accurate picture of what they do for a living. They aren't evil people, and they don't set out with the intention to hurt animals. Beyond that, listen to both sides, but keep in mind that both sides have an agenda to push.


Much of the "defense/security" is designed to keep humans away from the monkeys so the monkeys don't catch human diseases. Even when they aren't serious health hazards (like the common cold), catching a human disease could seriously skew research results. Visitors have to show that they don't have tuberculosis.


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2005-11-07 10:36:50   Yeah, I know. I went there once, and I had to get a paper from my doctor saying I didn't have tuberculosis. —NickSchmalenberger

2005-11-07 11:56:04   This page is generally skewed against the CNPRC. It lists several cases of primates dying because of human/machine error and only a passing reference to the extraordinarily beneficial research they do. I'll clean this up later, try to "unbias" it. —JesseSingh

  • The only reason it lacks is because those who know haven't added. There have been several people over the years who have commented "I'm going to add some positive info", and none ever did. Please, please add some info. —jw

2007-04-26 15:16:22   I know someone who works here, good times —StevenDaubert

2007-12-26 22:32:34

2008-03-31 17:48:56   The page faults Primate Freedom for being "misleading," but doesn't say how. Then, it sends links to the CNPRC's official website without any disclaimer. To say this page is biased against the center is bullshit. —TobinJones

2008-08-10 21:58:53   i think the link is wrong for the primate freedom site —MattHh

2008-08-11 13:50:31   Does anybody know what diseases or conditions have been cured or helped via primate research? I don't want to start any kind of big debate here, but I would like to know how such research has benefited us, costs aside.—JoePomidor

  • An acquaintance of mine is a postdoc in comparative pathology, and he's doing research on SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) and, thereby indirectly, on AIDS. It's tough to do direct research on AIDS for obvious reasons. When it comes to this type of research, I'm all for rounding up monkeys and poking them with needles, as long as it doesn't affect the sustainability of their species, and as long as reasonable measures are taken to minimize their discomfort. —TheAmazingLarry

2008-12-01 16:41:23   The Primate Freedom site is no longer available due to a lawsuit by the University of California to suppress information pertaining to its research staff and activities. (i.e. A SLAPP) —TobinJones

  • I have a feeling that the lawsuit is designed to protect the privacy of the employees, so this sort of thing doesn't happen to them. Privacy matters aside, it's also completely possible that there is proprietary information of one kind or another out there that isn't meant for free circulation. It's hard to be more specific, because you don't really give any sources or details.
  • EDIT: I did some extra research, and the reason for the lawsuit is to stop protesters from harassing animal researchers. (For more info go to this link and type in case number SC097145.) I don't understand how a lawsuit designed to keep a website from telling people where those researchers live (presumably so they can go there and attack them or their property) is a SLAPP.—JoePomidor
  • Woohoo for the lawsuit. -ES

2009-04-23 11:27:01   The spokesperson and executive director of Stops Animal Exploitation Now!, the organization that is running the commercial meant to smear the center, also claimed that "You can't study a human disease in a different species," implying that he has no idea how this type of research works. —JoePomidor

  • Guessing this is in reference to the article (linked from Uwire) in the Aggie. I believe UCLA isn't the only UC to now refuse to respond to certain requests filed under the Freedom of Information act, due to aforementioned issues (home vandalism (from graffiti, flooding, or fire), car bombings, etc). In full context though, the quote was ""Primates aren't subject to HIV," Budkie said. "You can't study a human disease in a different species."" That's likely a purposefully misleading statement. It is true that they aren't subject to HIV, but SIV is virtually the same thing. There are some differences between HIV and SIV in general, and you can't really cross-infect humans, chimps, and macaque's for example with the same strains (the data on why only came out a few years ago, it's really really interesting). Furthermore, there's lab strains like SHIV that are almost like a combined version, and etc. There's so much to learn. The concept that you can't learn about HIV from SIV is ludicrously incorrect, much less "human" diseases. -ES

2009-04-23 12:24:53   I wish all the crazies who protested these facilities would stop accepting pharmaceuticals. Evolution would then have its intended affect. —condemned2bfree

I don't think you need to resort to calling people crazy just for protesting (as long as it is carried out legally), nor do I think it is reasonable to wish they would be wiped out. Everyone is entitled to voice their opinion in opposition, so long as they aren't causing any damage, which I realize happened here in the past. Some people do refuse to use pharmaceuticals, and in many cases seek out alternative treatments with great success. Cheers! —aprilaries

Of course, this also means you are entitled to to call them crazies, if that is your opinion! —aprilaries

2009-04-24 16:58:45   In response to an earlier comment, two kinds of research that have benefited humans greatly that have been done on primates, are the testing of drugs used during pregnancy and birth. Which for obvious reasons are rather hard to ethically test on humans. In addition, most drugs on the market for epilepsy also come from primate research. I am not sure how to link to the scientific papers since if you can't see them without a membership. But if you google these two things you should find a fair amount of abstracts on these research subjects. This type of research can't be done on cell culture since it requires multiple organ systems and other animal models (such as mice) are too physically different from us in terms of birth process and brain function to be good research models. I would be happy to give more info if people are interested. —Zeeba

2010-10-06 09:33:46   I worked there and I tested the stress rooms myself. Helped build the cages and tried them out on myself. Primates, including human primates, sit there bored until they get a puff of air in the face. Not a violent puff of air, just enough to catch you off guard. Not a big deal at all. —JimJones

2011-04-06 18:06:10   "In order to do mind control on humans, they had to do animal studies first. The monkey colony at UC Davis in the 60s where I was an undergraduate is where they actually did the animal studies to develop mind control. it was adapted to human application at the applied science facility at UC Davis. " Leuren Moret

2012-01-24 02:15:12   Monkey!!! —MikeyCrews

Mikey!!! —MonkeyCrews

2013-03-09 12:11:07   My roommate is an ethical vegetarian and works here (I won't go into how critical and empathetic she is, since that'd just be opinions). My understanding is that it's not as bad as it sounds on this page and the experiments are all very humanely done. I know that she does a lot of cleaning and video watching to essentially watch how many times they do a specific action. —HannahToru