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Atlas Obscura Liberia’s Monkey Island

The year was 1974 and the original Planet of the Apes movie starring Charlton Heston had just been adapted into a small screen series. Little did anyone know, though, that out in the remote jungles of Liberia, a New York non-profit and idealistic young scientist were setting in motion what 30 years later would become what many now call the “real-life planet of the apes.”

That non-profit was the New York Blood Center, one of the largest blood banks in the United States. In search of a vaccine for a spate of blood-related diseases, NYBC bankrolled Vilab II, a controversial laboratory led by Betsy Brotman that would go on to conduct medical tests on over 100 chimpanzees.

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