It was an incredible year of awareness about chimpanzees. Chimps vanquished college students at cognitive tasks; there was a gathering of world-renowned experts at a conference entitled “The Mind of the Chimpanzee;” and the nation mourned the death of a chimpanzee named Washoe, well-known for her ability to communicate in American Sign Language.
The Congress also got with the program. President Bush signed a measure into law on Dec. 26 that ensures that some chimpanzees will remain with their friends and families, where they belong. This new law prohibits removal of and research on retired chimpanzees from the national chimpanzee sanctuary system. I asked my colleague Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for Animal Research Issues, to comment on this. Her perspective follows:
© The HSUS
Midge, one of three chimps retired to our
Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch.
Seven years after passage of the original Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, we are heartened that chimpanzees formerly used in research will finally be afforded permanent sanctuary. While animals are usually discarded when they are no longer used in research, the original CHIMP Act, passed in December 2000, recognized euthanasia of chimpanzees as unacceptable and established a national sanctuary system—setting an important precedent. Unfortunately, the legislation ultimately allowed for chimpanzees to be returned to laboratories after being sent to the sanctuary system.
This was a terrible flaw in the legislation, but that provision was never invoked and no chimpanzee was ever returned to research. The recent CHIMP Act amendments signed into law by President Bush will ensure permanent protection for those chimpanzees sent to the national sanctuary system. (I visited the sanctuary system this summer and you can read details of my experience here.)
In May of last year, we reported that the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources, responsible for approximately 650 government-owned chimpanzees, permanently ended funding for breeding of chimpanzees for research. This, coupled with the latest legislative advance, leads me to believe that the United States is well on its way to joining the rest of the world in ending the harmful use of our endangered next of kin.
The HSUS’s Chimps Deserve Better campaign, waged in conjunction with Project R&R: Release & Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, is working hard to bring an end to harmful research and testing on chimpanzees and provide permanent sanctuary for over 1,200 chimpanzees currently in laboratories—some of whom have been there, tragically, for more than 40 years.
In addition to our work to end the harmful use of chimpanzees in research and ensure their permanent retirement, The HSUS is doing much more to help chimpanzees in both captivity and the wild. We provide direct care at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch for three chimpanzees—Kitty, Lulu and Midge—formerly used in research. We are lobbying for the federal Captive Primate Safety Act, which would prohibit interstate transport of nonhuman primates (including chimpanzees) as pets. Our work also extends to Africa, where our affiliate Humane Society International has provided financial support for the Tacugama Sanctuary in Sierra Leone and the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in Guinea, and partnered in a multi-year effort that combines public education, law enforcement training, and appropriate community development projects in order to protect chimpanzees in the wild.
We are determined to deliver still more good news to you about our chimpanzee efforts in 2008 and beyond.