MESA, Ariz. - New drone video posted to YouTube appears to show monkeys in a facility long thought to be shut down and abandoned.
The facility, located near Higley and Thomas roads in Mesa, was formerly a chimpanzee sanctuary until it closed down in 2010. But a drone pilot, who wants to remain anonymous, flew over the facility and found monkeys still living in the cages.
From the 1970s through 2010, the facility was home to the Primate Foundation of Arizona. The facility housed more than 70 chimpanzees at its peak, and was apparently created by a former chimpanzee keeper at the Phoenix Zoo.
It was originally planned to be a chimpanzee sanctuary, but according to prior news coverage, the group began to lose money and at risk of having to shut down. Instead, according to federal records, the group offered up its chimpanzees to "non-invasive" medical testing.
From 1986 to 1999, the National Institutes of Health awarded the foundation more than $11 million in research funding.
But according to tax records, the foundation, which was run as a nonprofit, gave ownership of all their chimpanzees to the NIH and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas in 2009. Those tax records show the last chimpanzee was transferred to 2009.
The Primate Foundation of Arizona disbanded in 2010 and the founder and CEO died in 2012.
But that's where the records dry up. The facility is located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation, and ownership records are not available online.
A 12 News photographer went to the front gate of the facility and was met by a man in a pickup truck who declined to give his name or the names of anyone involved with the facility.
"I can't answer any of your questions," he said. "You may as well pack up your camera and go back until we can get some more information out to the public."
He would not say who would be issuing that information or how it might be given out.
Meanwhile, the drone video clearly shows more monkeys in the cages and the facility seems to be kept up and operating. It's impossible to tell immediately what species of monkey they are.
The USDA inspects facilities where animal testing is done. But the agency removed all of its records from public review in February of this year. Animal rights groups claim to have downloaded the records before they were removed. Their copies show the facility recorded no animals in 2010.
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