Name: All Chimpanzees in Research Deserve Real Retirement
On October 24, 2019, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that 44 chimpanzees currently
housed at the federal Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) in New Mexico would be
“retired in place” instead of being transferred to Chimp Haven, the national
chimpanzee sanctuary. While not entirely unexpected, this news was received
with great dismay throughout the animal protection community.
The NIH brought up the possibility of retiring some
chimpanzees “in place” in 2018, when it asked for the development of criteria
to be used in making such a determination.
At that time, NAVS strongly urged the NIH to retire of
all chimpanzees to Chimp Haven unless relocation would be “extremely likely to
shorten their lives.” We also strongly supported the use of an independent
expert veterinary opinion if Chimp Haven and the government facility disagree
about the transfer of an individual chimpanzee.
While the NIH did rely on a panel of veterinarians in
making its determination to keep 44 chimpanzees at APF, these veterinarians
were NIH employees, casting doubt on their “independence.”
Dr. Collins has warned that additional chimpanzees housed
at two other NIH facilities may also be withheld from retirement to Chimp Haven
for health reasons. As of October 2019, 178 chimpanzees remain housed in
research facilities, including the 44 chimpanzees at the APF.
Dr. Collins and the NIH have acknowledged that former
research chimpanzees deserve to be retired to a sanctuary. They also
acknowledged that facilities currently housing chimpanzees cannot provide an
ethologically appropriate physical and social environment or natural habitat
for these animals. Yet the NIH is now determining that at least 44 animals will
not benefit from a sanctuary that provides that necessary environment.
If Dr. Collins is determined to keep these chimpanzees away
from Chimp Haven, then the NIH should work to construct ethologically
appropriate housing at the sites where they will spend the rest of their lives.
Call to Actions:
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Please retire research chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, or create a sanctuary environment for animals on site
Dear [Decision Maker],
It is with great dismay that I learned that the NIH has decided to deny sanctuary to 44 chimpanzees who have been living for decades at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico. While I understand that some of these animals are elderly or are in poor health, they should not be condemned to remain in the research facility where they were once used as scientific test subjects.In 2015, the NIH made the laudable decision to no longer support biomedical research using chimpanzees. One of the factors considered was the difficulty in providing ethologically appropriate physical and social environments or natural habitats for the chimpanzees. This was one of reasons for the creation of Chimp Haven, which is now the sanctuary home for so many of these animals. Yet your decision regarding the 44 chimpanzees at Alamogordo deprives these animals from attaining that necessary level of care and denies them the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in a more natural and low stress environment. The suggestion that even more chimpanzees may be "retired in place" at two other NIH facilities is even more disturbing.If the Alamogordo chimpanzees are truly deemed too frail to travel to Chimp Haven, and are to be left in New Mexico, then the NIH should--at a minimum--establish an oversight committee to review current housing facilities and care to ensure that these animals receive the benefits that would have been theirs during their remaining years at a sanctuary. Through no fault or choice of their own, these chimpanzees have literally given their lives in "service" to the scientific community. The least we owe these innocent beings is the opportunity--however brief--to be free from their imprisonment, and to finally experience life as nature intended.
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]