The US Government Is Officially Retiring Its Chimpanzee Research

The remaining chimpanzees used for research in the United States are to be freed and relocated to sanctuaries.



Victory! Two years ago, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) liberated most chimpanzees used for medical research and sent them to sanctuaries to peacefully live out their lives. At least 50 remained in captivity, however, but they, too, will soon experience life in their natural habitat according to recent news. 

On Wednesday, NIH announced that the last 50 chimpanzees remaining in captivity will be liberated and sent to sanctuaries, as the institute is shutting down its primate research for good. 82 other chimpanzees at labs supported by NIH will be phased out over time.

“I think this is the natural next step of what has been a very thoughtful five-year process of trying to come to terms with the benefits and risks of trying to perform research with these very special animals. We reached a point where in that five years the need for research has essentially shrunk to zero,” the director of NIH, Francis Collins, told Nature

About 300 government chimpanzees have already been sent to Chimp Haven in Louisiana. It has a waiting list and animal advocacy groups are working with the NIH to find new homes for the newly retired research apes.

Earlier this year, research chimpanzees received the same protection rights given to endangered species, meaning that almost all invasive research on them was prohibited. The only chimpanzee research allowed to continue was non-invasive behavioral studies. 

There is little necessity to test on chimpanzees nowadays. Before many technological advances, the federal government relied on chimps for research during the early days of the space program and for decades to test new drugs because the apes are genetically and biologically similar to humans. Those days are over, however.

What has come to pass in the States this year may seem like a pioneering step, but several other countries have already banned (or at least imposed a severe restriction) on using great apes for medical research. Those countries include the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

It’s positive news, nonetheless. Comment your thoughts below and share this news!

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