United States Moves to End Testing
on Hundreds of Chimpanzees
162 Chimps in Alamogordo Likely to Be Retired
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced they plan to retire approximately 300 chimpanzees from biomedical research. The Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), a government-built site on Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico where no invasive research takes place, may have the opportunity to become a sanctuary in accordance with existing chimpanzee sanctuary standards. The eldest resident of the APF, 55-year-old Flo, and all 162 chimpanzees currently housed at the APF are likely to be eligible for retirement later this year.
The NIH announcement comes three years after Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) rallied intense public outcry against government attempts to move the elderly, sick chimps from New Mexico to a Texas lab for use in invasive testing. Permanent sanctuary for the APF chimpanzees represents what thousands of New Mexicans have sought for almost two decades for the many hundreds of chimpanzees once used for invasive research at the now-defunct and disgraced Coulston Foundation.
“The public demands protection for chimps like Heidi and Flo because it’s the right thing to do, and independent scientific studies show that chimpanzees are not good research models for human health,” said Laura Bonar, program director for APNM. "Taxpayers will save tens of millions of dollars over the course of the chimps’ lives by ending ineffective research programs and caring for these survivors in sanctuary.”
Flo is the oldest chimp currently housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility. Captured in the wild, the NIH estimates her age to be 55. Flo was used in a circus and exhibited at a zoo before being purchased by a lab in 1972 for use in research in New Mexico. Among her lab uses, Flo was part of a breeding program and gave birth to four infants only to have the babies taken away immediately or days later for use in research.
Tens of thousands of Americans have spoken up for the Alamogordo chimpanzees, including New Mexico state legislators, Governor Bill Richardson, and the New Mexico congressional delegation.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine studied whether research on chimpanzees is necessary following a written request to the NIH from U.S. Senators Tom Udall, Jeff Bingaman, and Tom Harkin. Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity found, “...most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary,” and also stated that ethics is at the root of whether or not chimpanzees should be kept in laboratories for experiments.
Today’s NIH announcement about chimpanzees in research comes two weeks after a US Fish & Wildlife Service notice that captive chimpanzees may be given protections under the Endangered Species Act, putting an end to the “split-listing” that allowed for the treatment of chimpanzees as commodities in the United States while simultaneously the species faces severe threats to its survival in the wild.
Twenty-four chimpanzees from New Mexico remain at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “With collaboration, more and more chimps will be able to experience the peace and dignity of sanctuary. This is an historic moment,” said Bonar.
Read the announcement from the National Institutes of Health
Thank you to everyone who has worked to protect chimpanzees, stay tuned for more updates on how to help ensure sanctuary for all chimps in labs!