MONKEY ISLAND, Liberia - All was quiet when the motorboat puttered to a stop. Saltwater lapped at the narrow sandy shore. Mangrove leaves fluttered in the breeze. Then the man in a blue life jacket cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted: Hoo hoo!
Like a secret password, the call unlocked a hidden primate universe. Dozens of chimpanzees emerged from the brush, hairy arms extended. They waded up to the rusty vessel with the nonchalance of someone fetching the mail.
"Time to eat," said Joseph Thomas, their wiry guardian of 40 years, tossing bananas into the furry crowd.
Chimps aren't supposed to be stuck on their own island - especially one with no food - or mingle with much-weaker humans. But nothing about Liberia's Monkey Island is normal. It's a spectacle, an increasingly costly burden and the enduring legacy of American scientists who set out to cure hepatitis B in 1974.
Animal testing has existed since doctors in ancient Greece studied the anatomy of rodents - an estimated 115 million creatures are still used each year in research worldwide - but rarely is the aftermath so visible. Rarely is it so hungry.
This colony of 66 chimpanzees, which never learned to survive in the wild, eats roughly 500 pounds of produce each day, plus a weekly batch of hard-boiled eggs for protein. They rely on money from a charity abroad and the devotion of men who've known them since they lived in steel cages.
"That's Mabel," said Thomas, the captain of that small crew, pointing to a 100-pound female. "Look! She likes to wash her food in the water."
As if on cue, Mabel dunked her banana in the mud-brown river.
Thomas, 60, met the chimp, 36, when she was a baby who pressed the soft black pads of her fingers into his open palm.
The New York researchers who once injected her with...