I have a fantastic update to share with you today. All of the federally owned chimpanzees from New Iberia Research Center – more than 100 individuals – have officially moved to Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. This is the largest group of government-owned chimpanzees to be retired, and, with this transfer, Chimp Haven’s population has doubled in less than two years. This very significant development comes as a direct result of the decision by the National Institutes of Health to work with Chimp Haven and The HSUS on a plan to transition the nation’s population of nearly all government-owned laboratory chimps to sanctuaries.
Chimp Haven’s total population currently stands at 212 chimpanzees, and it’s no easy feat to welcome so many chimpanzees in such a short amount of time. Chimp Haven’s decision to accept these chimps required an array of activities, including fundraising, construction of new chimpanzee housing, humanely transporting the animals, integrating them into large social groups, and getting each of them settled in their new homes.
An investigation at New Iberia conducted by The HSUS and broadcast by ABC News in 2009 was a pivotal moment in our efforts to end chimpanzee research and retire chimpanzees to sanctuary. To their great credit, the leadership at New Iberia has been very positive about moving this process ahead and providing a new life for the chimps.
There’s Julius, a 46-year-old chimpanzee who fathered 29 children in captivity and who will join six of his offspring at Chimp Haven. There’s Monkey, who once suffered severe trauma to his chin and lower lip because of a seizure and is receiving medical care. There’s Ned, who experienced head trauma as an infant, causing impaired mobility and cognition that made social interactions difficult, but who – with care and encouragement — has already made several friends among staff and other chimpanzees in his new home.
Back in September of 2012, this group of chimpanzees was declared permanently ineligible for research but most were slated to move to another laboratory in Texas when New Iberia decided it no longer wished to maintain chimpanzees for NIH. While we supported the ineligible designation, we urged NIH to work with us to send all of these chimpanzees to sanctuary. In December of that year, a joint effort was announced between NIH, the Foundation for NIH, Chimp Haven, and The HSUS to send these chimpanzees to Chimp Haven if $2.3 million in funds could be raised for construction.
The HSUS was able to help kick off the fundraising with $500,000, thanks to one of our most dedicated and generous supporters, Audrey Steele Burnand. We were later able to add more than $100,000 on top of that to provide critical support to Chimp Haven. Fortunately, Chimp Haven was able to secure the remainder of the needed funds for construction and immediately got down to the hard work of making the retirement of these chimpanzees a reality.
We couldn’t be more thrilled for the chimpanzees who will now get to live out the remainder of their lives climbing trees, relaxing in the sun, and living in larger social groups. The HSUS extends our congratulations to Chimp Haven for this amazing milestone and looks forward to more great news like this in the future as the National Institutes of Health continues its plan to retire more than 300 federally owned chimpanzees.
P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a moment to check out our People’s Silver Telly Award winning video about the retirement of this group of chimpanzees. This evocative and award-winning video, made by The HSUS last year, demonstrates the great job Chimp Haven has been doing in giving the chimpanzees a better life in their golden years.