Private Lab to Retire More Than 200 Chimps and Hand Them Over to New Sanctuary

By on May 4, 2016 with 3 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Our movement is taking on one of its biggest projects ever – absorbing the duties of care for hundreds of chimpanzees once used in laboratory experiments and transferring them to private sanctuaries. These facilities, with the help of the public, the government, and animal welfare groups, will take on the responsibility of providing a living environment for 700 additional chimps (including 300 owned by the government), on top of the 500 or so now in a small network of sanctuaries. Just the other night, I spoke at the annual gala of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, which is also planning on taking a number of lab refugees. In all, it will cost the custodians of these animals more than a quarter billion dollars over the lifetime of the chimps.

Yesterday, a partnership agreement was announced between Project Chimps—a new sanctuary in northern Georgia backed financially by The HSUS and other parties—and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) laboratory to retire its more than 200 chimpanzees. NIRC had been the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation in 2009, and the transfer of these chimps represents a remarkable conclusion to a saga that included hundreds of steps to get to this point where the invasive experiments have ended and the chimps are on their way to a new life.

The HSUS and other animal organizations have worked tirelessly for decades to end the use of chimpanzees for invasive research. Some of the most significant gains came last year when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded protections for captive chimpanzees in response to an HSUS legal petition. Following that decision, the National Institutes of Health announced its intention to retire all government owned chimpanzees, scrapping plans to maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees for possible future use. These changes have essentially brought an end to invasive chimpanzee research in the United States. But now we must focus on ensuring that the approximately 700 chimpanzees who remain in laboratories are retired to sanctuaries.

The most pressing challenge we face in accomplishing this goal is the availability of enough high-quality sanctuaries to fill this need. Project Chimps is adding a third big facility to the small network of facilities set up to provide long-term care to chimps. The Project Chimps sanctuary is receiving some financial support from the University of Louisiana but will also need significant help from the public to provide all of these chimpanzees with the sanctuary they deserve as quickly as possible.

Stay tuned, as Project Chimps is expecting its first residents to arrive in June. Its leadership plans to eventually house over 250 chimpanzees in nurturing and natural surroundings, ensuring that they have a healthy, enriched, and peaceful future. To help ensure the best possible care for these new residents, Project Chimps has brought together an accomplished team of professionals with decades of experience in the care of these extraordinary animals. You can learn more about the sanctuary here.

We’re glad to have played a role at every stage of this process and thankful to all of the advocates who joined us in taking action when we asked. How phenomenal is it that not only are we celebrating the end of invasive experiments on chimps, but we are also closing in on the mass transfer of chimps from labs to better, healthier, and forever-safe living environments.

Animal Research and Testing, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Michael Budkie says:

    It is certainly a very positive step that laboratories are retiring chimpanzees to sanctuaries. However, animal laboratories (such as the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, ULL) used and abused these intelligent, sensitive, creatures for decades, thoroughly profiting off of the chimp’s agony, bringing in millions in federal grants as well as huge sums of money through literally leasing the chimps to places such as pharmaceutical companies.

    As a movement we should NOT be “absorbing the duties of care for hundreds of chimpanzees.” We MUST NOT let the laboratories off of the hook for the tremendous expense and responsibility of caring for these animals for their entire lives. The animal research industry either kidnapped these animals out of their natural habitats, or brought them into the world through breeding, condemning these animals who are so much like us to a lifetime of captivity. Especially in the case of the ULL, a facility that continued to breed chimpanzees in contradiction to a federal moratorium on chimp breeding.

    Look at the mess caused by the New York Blood Center who abandoned chimps, leaving them to be someone else’s responsibility. We are pushing them to take full responsibility for these animals. The labs should never ever be able to walk away from any part of their responsibility.

    We need to face the facts, the only reason that facilities like ULL are retiring chimpanzees is because they can no longer legally experiment on them, or kill them. The chimpanzees have become a financial liability that the labs are eager to remove. I would hypothesize that the bean counters at ULL are cognizant of the fact that it is cheaper to care for chimpanzees in a sanctuary setting than in a laboratory. I believe that the primary motivation for ULL to retire these chimpanzees is monetary.

    Lastly, we should not let labs like ULL, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Emory University, etc. off of the hook as they retire their chimpanzees, because chimpanzees constitute only a very small fraction of the primates that they are abusing. These three facilities alone imprison approximately 15,000 primates, and all have killed many animals through sheer negligence. The fact that these institutions will be retiring chimpanzees in coming years, largely because they cannot legally utilize them in any way, does not turn them into the good guys.

  2. Linda Seiwert says:

    I think the SPCA is doing wonderful things and I have adopted animals from one of the local shelters. However, we all know of the abuse out there. I don’t think there is a need to publish advertisement on TV, Radio, or any other media outlet
    to remind us. I donate food, bedding, etc. to the local shelters and feel that if monies were not spent on expensive ad agencies and costly TV/Radio commercials there just might be more monies in the operating column. I’m sure that the celeb’s that are hired don’t come cheap. How much of the $18.00 actually goes to animal care and not t-shirts, salaries, or advertising? Maybe just posting on social media would meet the needs of our shelters. Just my thoughts on the matter.

    Linda Seiwert

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