2011 is off to a hopeful start for 186 chimpanzees at Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), who have been granted a reprieve from transfer to a Texas laboratory for use in invasive research.
According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) statement issued yesterday, the transfer will be delayed “pending an Institute of Medicine [the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences] in-depth analysis to reassess the scientific need for the continued use of chimpanzees….” The report is expected to take about two years.
NEAVS/Project R&R and other national groups, including Animal Protection of New Mexico, breathed a sigh of relief at this decision, which came after months of urging the NIH to keep the chimpanzees in New Mexico. APF, a holding facility, does not conduct experiments on the premises, and the individuals now housed there have been spared from research for the past 10 years. NIH’s plan to move them to the Southwest National Primate Research Center to be readily available for invasive research provoked national opposition, including from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and other public figures.
Dr. Theodora Capaldo, NEAVS/Project R&R President, stated, “In the midst of national efforts to get all chimpanzees out of invasive research, this decision signals an important willingness on the part of our government to consider their policies toward chimpanzees in research at large.”
For chimpanzees like Flo, Danny, Heidi, Robbie, and the others at APF, the delay in the transfer is good fortune. Flo, the oldest chimpanzee at APF, is 53. According to Animal Protection of New Mexico, she has chronic weight loss, anemia, and cardiac arrhythmias. Flo gave birth to four children, all of whom were taken from her for research. All but one, Jojo—now 27 and also at APF—are dead.
While this halt to the transfer is promising, NEAVS/Project R&R will continue pressing NIH to permanently retire not only the Alamogordo chimpanzees but all those now held in labs. The Great Ape Protection Act, legislation which would end invasive chimpanzee research in the U.S. and release all federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary, had 161 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and six cosponsors in the Senate at the close of the 111th Congress.
NEAVS/Project R&R’s work, including reviews of chimpanzee use in human disease research, along with the work of millions of individuals and dozens of other animal protection groups and sanctuaries, is building steady progress for this legislation. Broad-based support for the bill comes from bipartisan legislative leadership and co-sponsorship, as well as animal protection groups, scientists, chimpanzee experts, celebrities, and the general public.
Please take a moment to thank Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, for this wise and humane decision and to ask that NIH support the Great Ape Protection Act that is now before Congress.
To contact Dr. Collins:
[Chimpanzee photos pictured above were received on September 21, 2010 and obtained through a FOIA request.]