CLE ELUM, Wash. - The keepers of seven former medical research chimps in Cle Elum are applauding the announcement by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that affectively ends the nation s use of chimps for medical experiments.

Diana Goodrich, the Outreach Director at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, said chimps are very social animals that should never be isolated for medical experiments or anything else.

This is a species that is very social, very intelligent, and biomedical research is not an appropriate place for them to be, she said.

Federal investigators agreed when they suggested today s ruling.

Five years ago, the seven chimps arrived at the Cle Elum after being freed from tiny, isolated cells where they were tested mostly for hepatitis research.

Negra, who's the oldest chimpanzee here at the sanctuary, she had a period of 18 months where she was in complete isolation, not even in the same room as another chimpanzee, and she has post traumatic stress disorder, no doubt, from it, said Goodrich.

Goodrich said the seven chimps were depressed and unfriendly.

But she said today they are brimming with confidence and have formed a very tight social circle among each other.

The ruling means 300 chimps will be released from labs around the country to sanctuaries. A small group of about 50 will be kept until current research is completed. But no more chimps will be bred in captivity for the purpose of medical research.

Goodrich said some of the offspring of the Cle Elum chimps may be among those released. She said taking care of retired research chimps is expensive. They have been subjected to a lot of tests and may not be safe around humans so they require sophisticated security measures and a lot of room to roam.

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KING 5's Susan Wyatt contributed to this report

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