Home News Fate of retired research chimpanzees remains undecided

Fate of retired research chimpanzees remains undecided


more than twenty years ago Chimpanzee research Research has been halted at the Alamogordo primate facility in New Mexico, where about two dozen chimpanzees still live, despite federal law requiring that such retired chimpanzees be moved to a sanctuary.

In 2022, a judge ruled that the National Institutes of Health, which owns the chimpanzees, violated the law by refusing to move the animals to a forest preserve in Louisiana. Earlier this year, the agency withdrew its appeal of the ruling.

But the NIH says there are no plans to move the animals because of concerns about their health, and legal provisions may exempt the agency from moving “moribund” chimpanzees. “Dying” usually means near death.

As of October last year, 28 chimpanzees left The National Institutes of Health said in an email that all of the people in Alamogordo were moribund. It defines moribund as having a “life-threatening systemic illness that poses an ongoing threat and could result in sudden death.”

Some of the animals had previously been diagnosed with advanced cardiovascular disease, which is common in older chimpanzees.

The NIH’s refusal to move the chimpanzees drew criticism from lawmakers, veterinarians and animal rights advocates.

The Humane Society of the United States sued the National Institutes of Health, accusing it of being unwilling to move the chimpanzees. The association noted that the agency has described chimpanzees as “dying” for years, making it unlikely that they are actually dying.

“They really need to stop making excuses,” said Kathryn Conley, vice president of animal research issues at the Humane Society. “A lot of chimpanzees are moved to sanctuaries with health issues and are thriving in their new environment.”

Independent veterinary experts have not personally examined the chimpanzees in Alamogordo, and they are puzzled as to why the animals can remain dying for years.

“In human or veterinary medicine, ‘dying’ is generally understood to mean that death is imminent,” said Dr. Felicia Nutt, a wildlife veterinarian at Tufts University. “So any conclusion that a chimpanzee has been dying for three years — that’s problematic.”

Dr. Katherine Gamble, director of veterinary medicine at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, said transportation does carry risks. But even severe heart disease wouldn’t make such a transfer impossible, she said.

“We have people with mild to severe heart disease, but many of them are still traveling,” Dr. Gamble said. She said the risks of travel should be weighed against the potential benefits that a change of environment could bring.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, which established a national chimpanzee sanctuary system and provided that chimpanzees owned by the federal government that were not needed for research be sent to sanctuaries. Chimp Haven, a 200-acre chimpanzee sanctuary in Louisiana, is a designated nursing home.

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health announced that it would No longer supported Many of the Alamogordo chimpanzees have since been moved to Chimp Heaven to conduct biomedical research on them. But in 2019, the National Institutes of Health said a veterinary team concluded that 44 chimpanzees remained at Alamogordo. Too sick to leave.

“Physiological and psychological stress associated with transportation, isolation, changes in social structures, and changes in human care providers can precipitate fatal cardiac events.” The team wrote In a case summary, the team also expressed concern that chimpanzees with disabilities, such as cataracts and leg amputations, might not be able to integrate safely into new social groups and environments.

The Humane Society and other animal rights groups sued the decision, accusing the NIH of violating the CHIMP Act. In December 2022, a federal judge ruled in their favor, but added in a footnote, “Both parties appear to agree that NIH has no obligation to transfer ‘dying’ chimpanzees to sanctuaries.”

Santa Fe New Mexico Hotels Last month’s report The NIH has no current plans to relocate the chimpanzees.

“NIH plans to conduct annual assessments of Alamogordo’s chimpanzees to determine whether they are dying or if they are no longer dying and can be safely transported to Chimp Haven,” the agency said in an email. “

Rana Smith, president of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, said the annual assessment program shows the chimpanzees are not on the verge of death.

Ms. Smith also objected to the agency’s interpretation of the law, noting that the Chimpanzee Act does not use the word “dying” and does not make exceptions for chimpanzees with chronic illnesses. “We found that chimpanzees are an extremely resilient species that thrive in sanctuary environments,” she said.

For years, several U.S. lawmakers have urged NIH to relocate the remaining Alamogordo chimpanzees. “I have long advocated for a humane and permanent solution for these chimpanzees so that they can live out the rest of their lives in a non-laboratory sanctuary environment,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in an emailed statement.

He added that the agency’s refusal to move the chimpanzees was “in direct violation of federal law.” “I urge them to reconsider.”

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