By Wendy Suares
Animal rights activists from across the country are demanding a monkey be released from University Medical Center.
Mowgli, an 8 year-old rhesus macaque, was transferred to UMC from the University of Connecticut last October, where he was the only one of three monkeys to survive a controversial research experiment.
The protesters at UMC Monday were mostly silent, but their signs spoke volumes. Their goal is to save Mowgli from, what they say, is certain death at UMC.
"Mowgli will not be able to leave alive unless we save him," said animal rights activist Brenda Bostick.
The activists say Mowgli will face invasive, traumatic experiments on his brain and eyes at UMC. They say he's already suffered enough abuse while at another research lab at UConn. That lab was shut down amid a federal investigation.
Bostick said, "He had a choke collar made out of chain link and it was tightened so tight that his eyes bled."
Activists have raised enough money to cover the cost of transporting Mowgli to an animal sanctuary. But UMC has no plans to hand him over, saying in written statement, "the monkey is in excellent health. Like all animals owned by the medical center, he receives daily care by a well-trained veterinary staff." UMC went on to say its animal research complies with strict federal guidelines.
We wanted a chance to look at Mowgli for ourselves, to see if he's healthy as UMC says, but the hospital denied WLBT's request.
The activists now shift their efforts to raising public awareness. Monday's protest turned on a few passerbys to the "Free Mowgli" movement.
"Education is the key," said activist Charles Coburn. "Things like this need to be brought into the sunlight."
"We just want Jackson to know where their tax dollars are going," said Bostick. Your federal and state tax dollars support this type of experimentation."
The effort to free Mowgli is led by a graduate student at UConn. He says so far, he's collected several thousand signatures supporting Mowgli's release.