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U.S. Government moves to retire most research chimpanzees

U.S. Government moves to retire most research chimpanzees

Credit: Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW


by SUSAN WYATT / The Pet Dish


Posted on January 22, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 2:05 PM

A new report released today is good news for more than 600 chimpanzees owned by the National Institutes of Health.

A report from an NIH council recommends that almost all of the chimpanzees owned by the U.S. government be retired to sanctuaries.

The news follows an NIH announcement last month to move all 106 of the chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center to Chimp Haven, the federal chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, La.

A few main points from the report, as outlined by our friends at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest:

  • Most current biomedical use of chimpanzees should end. Some behavioral and genomic research might be able to continue (pending meeting other new requirements below).
  • The chimpanzees not needed for federal research should be retired to appropriate sanctuaries through the Federal Sanctuary System, and the federal government has an obligation to pay for this retirement.
  • The Working Group carefully and closely defined “ethologically appropriate” conditions, under which all federally owned and supported chimpanzees must be kept. These include physical and social requirements such as group makeup and enclosure size. No current laboratory environment meets these requirements.
  • There is no need for a large reserve colony of chimpanzees to be maintained for “unknown unknowns” – meaning some unexpected virus or emergent disease that we don’t know about yet. They did discuss the need for a small (50 chimpanzees) reserve colony to be housed in one facility and meeting the ethologically appropriate requirements.
  • An independent oversight committee should have final review and approval authority on any chimpanzee research proposals that make it through the NIH funding process. This committee would ensure that any projects being funded meet all of the criteria set forth.

PETA issued a statement saying, "At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth. The plan unveiled today means we’re joining the rest of the modern world and taking concrete steps to end cruel and archaic experiments on the 900 chimpanzees locked in U.S. laboratories."

Says Sarah with Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest: "I have to admit that my eyes welled up a little while listening to the meeting, thinking about the potential to help so many more chimpanzees. So much has changed, for the better, since I first started taking care of chimpanzees (over 15 years ago!). I see a day when we’re done with all this stuff, and I never dreamed of that 15 years ago."

The NIH will solicit public comments on the report’s recommendations beginning Wednesday, January 23, 2013; ending on Saturday, March 23, 2013. Submit your comments

Chimpanzee report