U.S. government scientists have decided that almost all chimpanzees kept for federally funded research will be retired from laboratories. The chimps will be placed in a national sanctuary.
According to The Star, the decision to end the use of chimpanzees in most research was made by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A report produced by the committee, ‘Council of Councils Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research’, indicates that in the future chimps should be used only if there is no other way to study a threat to human health.
The decision has been made by scientists on ethical grounds and it follows decades of lobbying, the New York Times indicates, by animal welfare groups, such as the Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. According to the news site Rian, the European Union banned chimpanzee research in 2010, which left the United States and the African nation of Gabon as the only countries with chimpanzee medical research programs.
The chimps removed from laboratories will be housed at Chimp Haven outside Shreveport, La. This could amount to hundred, or possibly thousands, of chimpanzees. Chimp Haven was created on 200 acres of a Caddo Parish park in Keithville in northwest Louisiana.
Jennifer Whitaker, vice president of Chimp Haven, is quoted by Live Science as saying: “We look forward to working closely with the NIH to devise a strategy to retire these chimpanzees to Chimp Haven.”
Although most chimps are being retired, around fifty will be kept for ‘special’ (undisclosed) research. For those chimps that remain, the NIH has stated that the conditions in which chimps are kept must be reformed with the chimps given sufficient room to play and climb, rather than being kept locked in small cages. In addition, chimps must be given outdoor access.