History of Monkey Island

An Island Occupied with Chimpanzees Used in Research

Known to locals as Monkey Island, the island is located in Marshall, Liberia, just off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to over 60 chimpanzees previously used for hepatitis research at the Vilab II facilities.

Because of its large population of chimpanzees, Liberia became the site of medical research in the mid-1970s at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research. In partnership with the Liberian government, the nonprofit New York Blood Center funded the research and other medical studies.[1]  The chimpanzees were used for animal testing by Betsy Brotman and her team at the Vilab campus in Liberia. During the research, over 100 chimpanzees were injected with infectious diseases in the hope of finding cures. As part of the experiment, once a chimpanzee tested positive for hepatitis, they were taken to the island—chosen because chimpanzees cannot swim—to have more tests conducted at the lab. 

The experiment process became more difficult during the civil war, but Betsy and her team decided to stay and continue the experiment. Remaining in the country during the civil war of 1993 led to the death of her husband who was shot and killed. After her husband’s death, Betsy stayed at the lab to continue the animal testing research until the late 1990s when she had difficulties with scientists, researchers, and animal rights activists around the world. Anti-testing videos were released that showed the cruel methods that were used at other labs, eventually turning the tide against the practice of animal testing. Scientists discovered that most chimp testing were cruel rather than effective. In 2005, Vilab finally caved and the New York Blood Center ended its research in the country. [2] 

Betsy, along with a core of support staff, continue to feed and care for all the retired chimps. A group of trained Liberian caretakers visit the island every other day to bring food to the chimps, observe them, and make sure all the animals are doing well. It has been said that the research Betsy and her team conducted at Vilab led to life-saving vaccinations for Hepatitis B, as well as a screening method for Hepatitis C—two diseases that combined affect millions of people worldwide.








Anna Sherman-KartoComment