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NIH to Retire Majority of Research 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

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins has announced a decision to retire nearly 90 percent of the NIH’s chimpanzees.

Collins said the agency plans to keep as many as 50 chimps available for future research projects without further breeding.

Many of the chimps are housed in New Mexico, and Laura Bonar, program director with Animal Protection of New Mexico, said this is a turning point.

"This is a long-overdue statement about the realization that chimpanzees are more than just lab equipment,” she said. “They are individuals who have suffered horribly in labs. And this announcement culminates so much work to end the United States' practice of keeping chimps in labs."

While the decision does not affect chimps that are not directly owned by NIH, Bonar called it "the beginning of the end of the suffering" for numerous chimpanzees held in captivity for many years.

According to Dr. James Anderson, director of NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, hundreds of chimpanzees could be eligible for a change in status.

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

NIH Director Collins said these 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. And we will be working with the sanctuary system, assuming that we can get the Chimp Act cap lifted on cost, to try to make that happen in a timely fashion."



Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV