The Retirement of Chimpanzees from Biomedical Research: A Timeline
In 2010, the NIH announced it would be closing the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) on Holloman Air Force base, and move approximately 180 chimpanzees to Texas Biomedical Research Institute, more commonly known as Southwest Foundation. Fourteen chimps moved right away.
Following public outcry, the NIH put a moratorium on further moves, and asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research.
DECEMBER 2011: The IOM releases its report, concluding that chimpanzees are largely unnecessary for biomedical research. The NIH forms a Working Group to implement IOM recommendations.
SEPTEMBER 2012: The NIH announces that 110 NIH-owned chimpanzees living at New Iberia Primate Research Center (NIRC) are “permanently ineligible for research” and would be transferred to Southwest Foundation.
Following public outcry, the NIH opted to retire these 110 chimpanzees to Chimp Haven. 50 chimps are moved to Chimp Haven in 2013.
JANUARY 2013: The Working Group releases its recommendations, proposing that the NIH retire most of its chimpanzees, and implement new review protocols and standards for chimpanzee research.
JUNE 2013: The NIH announces that it will be significantly reducing the use of (and funding for) chimpanzees in biomedical research. All but 50 of NIH’s 360 remaining chimpanzees (which does NOT include the 110 chimps from NIRC) will be retired.
NOVEMBER 2013: The CHIMP Act, which in 2000 established federal funding for retirement of chimpanzees, was amended to temporarily fix a $30 million dollar cap that was written into the original bill. The amendment provided funding for the next five years, but only for chimpanzee care. Funding for construction of new housing for the chimps in sanctuaries was not authorized.
FEBRUARY 2014: The remaining 60 NIH-owned chimpanzees at NIRC begin to move to Chimp Haven, with an anticipated completion date of September 2014.
JUNE 2015: The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reclassifies all chimpanzees as members of an endangered species, including captive chimpanzees in the United States. This makes it unlawful to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees without a permit, effectively ending the use of chimps as medical research subjects. Much work remains to be done to move chimpanzees being warehoused in research laboratories to accredited sanctuaries.
NOVEMBER 2015: The National Institutes of Health announces their plan to retire all NIH-owned chimpanzees to accredited sanctuaries, including the 50 chimpanzees the NIH previously planned to retain. Although privately owned chimpanzees living in labs are still awaiting retirement, it is now more difficult to legally justify their use in invasive research. Save the Chimps is hopeful that all US laboratories will join the NIH and announce the retirement of the chimpanzees in their care.