War was replaced by sanctions, as the rest of the former Soviet Union cut off all ties with Abkhazia. Slowly, the monkey institute sank into poverty and oblivion.
But the quest to get the escaped monkeys back never quite died out. On a recent morning, Kubrava's cellphone rings. It's the only phone he has, he mutters. The land lines don't work.
"Where did you see it?" he asks excitedly, rising from his chair and pacing behind his desk. "Right on the side of the road? How far from the place? When was it? OK, we'll see what we can do."
Someone has spotted a stray monkey, he explains as he hangs up. It happens frequently, part of the painstaking process of tracking down the scattered animals and bringing them back into the fold. All these years later, strays still roam the Abkhazian forests.
"After the war, we had reports of monkey sightings every day," he said ruefully. "It was both funny and sad."
Winters in the wild may be harsh and the food scarce, but it's debatable whether "rescue" qualifies as a happy ending for the animals.
Outside, a damp afternoon molders away in the dense forests. In their ramshackle cages, the monkeys chatter and croon to themselves, cower against the stained concrete walls or chew their fingers and stare woefully down toward the sea. Little trace of their breakfast of oranges and grain remains.
When they spot a passerby with a banana in hand, they crowd to the front of the cages and poke their paws beseechingly through the bars.
The air is thick with the stench of monkey feces. Cold rain drips slowly down through the trees. A stiff sea wind stirs the monkeys' fur.
Sprawling enclosures where the animals once roamed are now makeshift dumps clotted with rusted cars and mounds of garbage. There is no money to buy new monkeys, and so the remaining animals have developed diseases from inbreeding.
Shevtsova is still talking about the glory days of her career, four decades ago, when she received monkeys with mysterious maladies from all over the world, when she jetted all the way to San Antonio to present her research. Now her experiments have dried up.
"They keep promising to bring us new monkeys," she says with a sigh. "Maybe when it gets warmer . . . "
For now she rattles around a deserted laboratory, the air filters dangling from the ceiling, the clock on the wall stopped. She pauses between an ancient centrifuge and the boxes where she keeps aging samples of viruses.
"This is a biohazard," she says cheerfully. And then, without irony, "Can I offer you some coffee?"
These days, the researchers are reduced to studying the effects of post-traumatic stress on the war-haunted monkeys.
The animals give them plenty of material.
"They are depressed," Kubrava says. "Now they are calming down, little by little. Right after the war they were scared of people, they were inactive and the birthrate was very low."
The institute recently managed to repair some cages, buy medicine and improve the feed after collecting $40,000 through tourism. Two years ago, it added heated compartments in the back of the cages.
In another sign of what the staff insists is slowly improving health, a 29-year-old monkey recently stunned everybody by giving birth years beyond the usual fertility range.
"You know," Kubrava muses, "you can't stop science."