37 chimpanzees once used for research are still locked up in a lab. We are suing the NIH to release them to sanctuary

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on January 14, 2021 with 23 Comments

Thirty-seven chimpanzees languishing at a New Mexico primate laboratory are still waiting for the National Institutes of Health to fulfil a promise it made in 2015—to retire them to sanctuary after a lifetime spent in research.

Today, we’re giving these animals a helping hand by suing the federal agency, which has shamelessly reneged on this promise.

Following long-running efforts,​ including our successful legal petition to grant captive chimpanzees the highest protections under the Endangered Species Act, the NIH announced in 2015 that it was ending invasive testing on chimpanzees and moving all of the animals it owns or supports in labs to sanctuary. Hundreds of chimps of all ages have since been moved to the federal sanctuary, Chimp Haven, in Louisiana, and are thriving there.

Unfortunately for some chimpanzees, that day never came.

Soon after the announcement, Charles River Laboratories, which receives a lucrative government contract funded with taxpayer dollars to warehouse chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, pushed back against retiring many of the chimpanzees in their facility. The lab claimed that these chimps are too fragile to move and should instead spend the rest of their lives at the very laboratory where they were subjected to research protocols.

As a result, in 2019, NIH went back on its promise to give these chimpanzees a better life, the one they deserved, citing an internal review that agreed with Charles River’s claims—despite the fact that NIH’s own population model shows that the chimpanzees will likely live for years to come, some potentially until 2048. This could mean that the chimpanzees at APF could be condemned to at least another 25 years of life inside a barren laboratory facility instead of the verdant and peaceful environment of a sanctuary where they can socialize with other chimpanzees, enjoy fresh air and superior veterinary and behavioral care.

This is simply unacceptable, and we will not stand by while the NIH blithely ignores the suffering and needs of these highly intelligent and sensitive animals. Our lawsuit, filed today with Animal Protection of New Mexico in the federal District Court of Maryland, would compel NIH to abide by a law passed by Congress 20 years ago, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, that mandates all federally owned chimpanzees who are no longer needed for research be retired to federal sanctuary.

Congress, in passing the law, recognized our nation’s moral responsibility to provide lifetime care for these animals in the best possible environment. By not retiring the chimpanzees at APF to sanctuary the NIH is not just deserting this moral responsibility, it is also in clear violation of U.S. law.

What’s more, the NIH’s argument that the chimps would be at risk in the event of a transfer just doesn’t make sense. Of the hundreds of chimpanzees of all ages and health conditions who have moved from laboratories to Chimp Haven, not one has died during transport. Independent and expert veterinarians with decades of chimp experience have assessed the chimpanzees at APF, their medical records, or both, and said that these chimpanzees are not in such dire health that they would be at risk if transported to sanctuary.

We already know that chimpanzees retired from research thrive when placed in a sanctuary environment. At Chimp Haven, there are dozens of such happy stories, like that of Ladybird, a chimpanzee who was retired to the sanctuary in her 50s and just celebrated her 60th birthday.

The NIH knows that we have been in this fight for a long time, and we do not give up. We are committed to ensuring every chimpanzee owned or supported by the federal government has a peaceful retirement to look forward to at a sanctuary.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.


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  1. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Absurdo!!!!! Além das criaturinhas passarem a vida inteira em privação da liberdade, sendo torturados… ainda não podem ter um final de vida digno num santuário??

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    No podemos seguir hablando así de los animalitos esto tiene que terminar ya los animalitos tienen que ser libres es justo que ellos vivan así

  3. Radames torres says:

    Release them

  4. Barbara says:

    NIH is revolting. Get these chimps to sanctuary. They are more important than the scientists who tortured them.

  5. Thomas Bienek says:

    I’m sorry to have to say that, but right now I’m boiling with anger and crying with frustration. I can deal with many bad things, but not the infinite human self-importance and ignorance of any kind of life. 😠😔

  6. Diana de ju says:

    Diana de ju rlyew45@ hotmail.com
    . I just can’t fanthom why, in this so modern age, they continue to torture these innocent and almost human like beings!! No reason is worth it.. must stop now!

  7. Elisabeth Rütsche says:

    kämpfen Sie,bitte kämpfen Sie gegen die Dummheit und grandiose Überheblichkeit dieser ignoranten Menschen!

  8. Linda Hein says:

    That’s just not right…I put it on my FB page and hope more people complain. You can’t out them through all that and just throw them away.

  9. Wanda Ross says:

    What a disgusting practice to experiment in a Godly creature. This needs to end now as you promised years ago.

  10. JT says:

    Set them free!!!!! For Gods Sake!!!

  11. Tammy Lawhorn says:

    This is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. They need to be released to sanctuary immediately. I am going to keep up with this and please let me know what I can do to help make this happen.

  12. Tracey McCarter says:

    I am disgusted that my hard earned tax dollars are aupporting this out dated and barbaric science. Shame on you and anyone that supports this abhorrent torture.

  13. Karen Villareal says:

    A DISGRACE. These poor chimpanzees, have been through far too much already. Set them free to a Sanctuary Now. How dare this place go back on their word. Where do they get money to operate? They should receive No More Funding! Let these poor animals go on to be able to live out the rest of their lives free from pain and torment.

  14. Susan Skyy says:



    Let them go!!!!!! You have no right to do this!!!!! They are living, breathing, amazing animals not for you to abuse!!!!!

  16. Regina Heck says:

    Shame on NIH! Keep your word and Release those poor chimps.

  17. Brenda Carty says:

    As if they havent suffered enough at the hands of evil.RELEASE these innocent souls and NO EXCUSES.Enough with torture.

  18. BetteAnn Hansen says:

    Sad that they could do this

  19. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Commendable, but I wish HSUS would first focus on proper care of the Project Chimp primates which are under your auspices. These beings also deserve attention. The accomplishments of HSUS are noteworthy, but they don’t excuse the dismissal of valuable employees’ concerns about these animals; I hope to see the organization remedy the situation so I can once again view HSUS in a more positive light.

    • Blog Editor says:

      Hi, thanks for your comment. We couldn’t agree more that the chimpanzees at Project Chimps deserve great care. Unfortunately, there’s a some misinformation circulating about the situation at Project Chimps. We believe much of it has been generated by people who have genuine compassion for the animals, but—based on the assessments of multiple chimpanzee experts and veterinarians—are off base in the conclusions they have drawn about the sanctuary. The care of the animals at Project Chimps is overseen by a fulltime veterinarian with chimpanzee experience. We encourage you to read our statement on the issue, which we are updating as warranted. We also suggest reviewing Dr. Steve Ross’s report in its entirety rather than relying on others’ summations, which sadly have not fully conveyed the contents of the report.

  20. Nancy Hair says:

    UC Davis in CA still has a primate lab. And there are others that the public never hears about. Primate torture/research is deeply unpopular with the public and is kept under wraps. Please help expose all the orgs that are still using monkeys and apes for ‘research’. The public needs to know.

  21. monique verdier says:

    What kind of species ,takes another less intelligent species and does cruel experiment’s on them ??? A COWARD !!!!!!!!!!

  22. S. Dill says:

    It’s June 2022 and those chimps better be free!

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