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New Hope for Laboratory Chimpanzees

PHOTO: Pumpkin, a 24-year-old chimpanzee at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, loves coconuts and kiddie swimming pools. APF is a chimpanzee reserve where no research is conducted.Courtesy: N-I-H.
PHOTO: Pumpkin, a 24-year-old chimpanzee at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, loves coconuts and kiddie swimming pools. APF is a chimpanzee reserve where no research is conducted.
Courtesy: N-I-H.
June 28, 2013

NORFOLK, Va. – Hope for chimpanzees used for laboratory research came this week, when the National Institutes of Health announced the decision to retire nearly 90 percent of the NIH’s chimps.

Dr. James Anderson, director of the NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, said that means hundreds of chimpanzees would be taken out of labs across the country.

"We project about 310 would be designated eventually for retirement," he said.

That leaves about 50 chimps that will still be used for NIH research.

Animal welfare advocates such as Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), hailed the NIH decision, but said all laboratory chimps should be retired immediately.

"It's frankly outrageous and seems like a compromise to assuage the concerns of the research community to keep 50 chimpanzees imprisoned,” he said, “when there's acknowledgement there's no need to keep them there at all."

Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to place both wild and captive chimps on the endangered species list for the first time.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said the retirements would be slow, partly because of financial considerations.

"We're talking about several years because, at the present time, the capacity is not there to handle these animals,” he explained. “It will require considerable expansion of the sanctuary system to make that possible."

NIH is asking Congress for more funding to expand sanctuaries for retired chimps.



Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA