Dec 05, 2008

Abkhazia: Monkey Business Returns to Health

Active ImageScience institute monkeys become unlikely benefactors of Russia’s recognition.



Below is an article published by

Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state may have fired speculation about military bases and trade ties, but one interesting question has been generally overlooked so far: what it means for Sukhumi’s monkeys.

Set on a mountaintop overlooking the Black Sea, Sukhumi’s Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Pathology and Therapy -- commonly known as "the monkey station" [pitomnik obezyan’] -- was legendary in Soviet times. In bygone times, it was one of the world’s leading primate research centers, with a guest list ranging from North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh to Soviet World War II hero Marshal Giorgi Zhukov.
That legend fell on hard times after the 1992-1994 Georgian-Abkhaz war, which caused the loss of monkeys, staff and money. Now, with fresh research pursuits and a recent monkey baby boom, institute scientists hope that official recognition of Abkhazia will let their 81-year-old center make a comeback.
"I won’t say that as of tomorrow everything will be different, but the tempo [of work] will become faster," said Institute Director Tamaz Kubrava in a recent interview with EurasiaNet.

"We’ll have direct contact with all establishments in Russia, without middlemen or anything else. That’s what recognition gave us," Kubrava continued.

Until Russia opted out of the Commonwealth of Independent States blockade on Abkhazia earlier this year, gaining access to food and equipment was largely a matter of "so-called contraband," recollected Professor Vladimir Barkaya, the institute’s deputy director and head of its Experimental Hematology Laboratory.

Now, it is just a matter of "transferring money," Barkaya continued. And finding the right opportunity for collaboration. Conversations and memoranda of intent with Russian institutes have reportedly picked up pace since Russia’s August recognition of Abkhazia.

"They’re interested in the condition of the monkeys, what equipment we have, what they should bring that we don’t have," commented Barkaya.