A breakdown last week in the climate control system at Korea's only primate studies center resulted in the deaths of 99 monkeys kept for research purposes.
According to the Science Ministry and the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology yesterday, a power transformer at the Daejeon-based institute caught fire late April 20, causing a malfunction in temperature control systems for at least two hours. As a result, the temperature inside the laboratory rose out of control, threatening 135 monkeys kept inside a sealed room.
"We found more than half of them dead inside the laboratory," said Hyun Byung-hwa, head of the institute's primate research center.
The center was the first established in the country to do reseacrh on primates. The laboratory had tight filter systems to control air flows into the room in order to keep it germ-free. The monkeys cost the facility from 3 million to 5 million won ($5,000) each, the institute said. Breeding a single monkey there costs the institute even more, at up to 10 million won a year. The Science Ministry said it would soon send an inspection team to the institute to conduct an investigation. The institute said it would import 30 monkeys from Indonesia to continue its research.
"When the transformer caught fire, power from a backup source was supplied immediately," said Kim Yeong-gwon, manager of the institute's publicity department. "But the fire somehow broke down the temperature control device."