This is in response to a Chronicle story about the opening of a new lemur center.
Good day from Fact Checker...
We need some background here. This facility was once known as the Duke Primate Center, and it got its name change as part of a PR attempt to whitewash its history, which is quite chilling.
The horror reached its zenith in the winter of 1996, particularly cold in Durham, when three lemurs froze to death and 27 others were injured, many critically. These injuries occurred when the lemurs gathered in a circle around heating lamps -- and the circle of animals trying desperately to escape the cold tightened to push those on the inside into the hot bulbs. Others suffered frostbite and needed amputations of toes and tail tips.
In addition, Duke failed to provide veterinarian care as specified in the federal Animal Welfare Act, which protects the subjects of research from abuse.
Moreover, Duke failed to make corrections that winter despite a series of three inspections by federal authorities. Even though Duke paid substantial fines, Inspector David Kelly said that the fines are not stiff enough to force real change. "I don't have much faith in Duke administrators," Kelly told The Herald-Sun. "The general attitude that they can do no wrong needs to be looked at.... We all make mistakes; they don't like to admit it." (Some stories never change!!)
(The fines -- and criminal charges -- should have been imposed against university administrators personally in the judgment of Fact Checker)
Well the good news is that this seared the conscience of the community, and an uproar finally caused the administration to act. (Does that sound familiar, current Dukies?)
Duke found money to construct a better facility. We hired a new compassionate director away from Yale (she has a UNC and Duke background though) and changed the name to Lemur Center so if you Google it or search it in Chronicle archives, you do not find out the historical truth.
That's why you need Fact Checker.
Final notes: this facility was supposed to be finished in October of last year. I have heard no explanation why construction was delayed and some of the animals will spend part of the winter without accommodations deemed essential to them, until the 2nd building is opened. The Chronicle should have picked up on this, at least.
The Durham Herald-Sun reported some weeks ago that two employees of the lemur center were laid off -- the first such casualties in the university's budget crisis.
Two years ago, an unknown animal rights group in Ohio (of all places) asserted abuse at the Lemur Center. People who Fact Checker relies on checked this out and failed to find justification for the allegations.
These animals are believed to be the closest to humans in the chain of evolution. They are endangered in the wild, and we have the largest colony in captivity. They have provided us with much knowledge about ourselves, and they deserve the care that Duke is finally according them, 13 years after the horrible events in the winter of 1996.
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