A number of monkey species, including African green monkeys and African vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops), are frequently infected in the wild and in captivity with a Simian immunodeficiency virus strain, SIVagm, a primate lentivirus. Up to 50% of African green monkeys are estimated to be infected with SIVagm. SIV strains are very closely related to HIV-2 strains, which are a cause of AIDS in humans, predominantly in western Africa, although cases in Australia have also been reported. It is generally thought that SIV is non-pathogenic in several natural hosts, including African green monkeys. Nevertheless many SIV strains induce a profound immunodeficiency virtually identical to HIV-1 induced AIDS in humans when administered to Asian macaque species such as rhesus (Macaca mulatta) or pigtailed macaques (M nemestrina). SIV infection of Asian macaque species is frequently employed as an animal model for AIDS vaccine studies. In November 1996 a group of 10 African vervet monkeys were imported from the USA for display at Victoria's Open Range Zoo in Werribee. Two animals in this group of monkeys later developed a fatal gastroenteric illness. These diagnoses led us to initiate SIV testing of the colony.