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Arizona’s ‘monkey mystery’ solved in Seattle

SEATTLE — It was a video that perplexed Arizona natives and had animal-rights activists up in arms.

A building that was thought to be abandoned was seen caging dozens of monkeys.

Outdoors. In the hot sun.

“It just makes you wonder why they’re out there,” Arizona native and drone videographer Jesse Greer told ABC 15 News. “Why are they hidden and tucked away?”

Thousands saw Greer's video, and many had questions.

But the answer to the monkey mystery was found earlier this week in Seattle. Though the mystery is solved, some animal activists are still upset.

The Mesa, Arizona complex previously housed rescue chimpanzees. Now, the University of Washington leases the buildings and uses them as a breeding colony for Macques monkeys. The university sends the monkeys to other laboratories - including one in Seattle - for medical research use.

"The breeding colonies are designed to support biomedical research,"  Mike Mustari, the director of the Primate Research Center at the University of Washington, told Q13 News.

UW's research with non-human primates is at least partially funded by the National Institutes of Health. The governmental organization mandates the usage of breeding colonies.

Mustari says the animals are native to Southeast Asia and love the Arizona heat. Still, all animals have access to the indoors and climate controlled environments. In fact, the monkeys are more upset by winters than the hot summers.

"They have indoor-outdoor housing," Mustari said. "If it does get cold, they don't know what to make of the cold. It's actually more of a problem than the hot weather."

Many viewers still had concerns after learning of the facility's purpose. According to ABC 15, at least one protester was spotted outside the Mesa complex this week.

"I hope there are no animal experiments taking place there," Cassandra Randall told ABC 15. "You breed them and trap them for experiments? That's very evil in my eyes."

UW has come under fire for previous mistreatment of primates. Earlier this year, federal regulators cited the Seattle research facility after a monkey died of thirst.  In 2015, three monkeys that were fitted with skull and vertebral implants were killed. The university has also previously been cited for not adequately providing painkillers.