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Georgia: Abkhazia's Monkey Business Returns to Health

A monkey, tattooed with an identification number, stares out from its cage at the Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Pathology and Therapy in Sukhumi in July 2008.

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.

To read the full story

Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNet’s Caucasus news editor in Tbilisi. Sophia Mizante is a freelance photographer also based in Tbilisi.

Georgia: Abkhazia's Monkey Business Returns to Health

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