Chimp Haven, the sanctuary for retired biomedical research chimps, has released a moving video that shows government research chimps as they go out into the simulated wild for the very first time.
More than 100 government-owned chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center, a laboratory in Louisiana, will be retired to the federal chimpanzee sanctuary Chimp Haven, providing sufficient funds are in place to construct the necessary facilities. It is estimated that this will cost upwards of $2.3 million, funds the government will not be able to provide in their entirety due to its spending cap having been reached.
Many of the chimps, some of them now over 50 years of age, will have endured a life-time being subjected to oftentimes invasive medical tests.
The process toward liberating chimpanzees from biomedical research facilities has been a long one.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine issued a report in which it concluded the majority of research conducted on chimpanzees is unnecessary. After a period of consultation, it was recommended that all but 50 chimpanzees be fully retired.
It emerged last year that a number of chimps from the New Iberia Research Center were in fact due to be sent to other medical facilities where, while they would no longer be subject to invasive medical tests, they may have still been used in research.
In December, however, and after a public outcry, the NIH announced it would move all the chimps to a sanctuary.
It is estimated that there are nearly 2,000 chimpanzees in the United States today. Of those, figures suggest 962 are still housed in research laboratories.
Of the remaining number, approximately 446 live in accredited sanctuaries; 259 are registered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and 287 are either in non-accredited sanctuaries or zoos, or are being sold or housed as pets by members of the public — often in wildly restrictive and unsuitable environments.
Over the next 12 to 15 months, more lab chimps from across the country will be liberated from their lives as medical research animals.
As noted above, even though the government has now moved to retire the vast majority of the remaining chimps, a failure to provide funds for such rehousing efforts means that many so-called retirement sanctuaries, like Chimp Haven, have had to resort to asking for public funding. Experts in the field have called on the government to allocate more funds in order to ensure that the order to retire is more than just empty words.
The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011, which requires the phasing-out of federally supported invasive research on Great Apes and for retiring government-owned animals to be sent to sanctuaries, continues to languish in Congress. Privately-funded invasive research on chimps is still ongoing, and with little remedy yet in sight. Certainly, there is still a great deal of work to be done on this issue, but the above video shows in clear terms why the work must continue.