News & Alerts

A Chimpanzee’s Life: 52 Years in a Lab

August 31, 2006 Lab realities conflict with public opinion Press Release

Boston, MAAugust 29, 2006Wenka, 52 years old, was born in the nation’s first chimpanzee laboratory in Orange Park, Florida, in 1954. She was sold as a “pet” and returned to the lab when she was only three. Today she remains confined at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Atlanta, GA). She has been used for decades in research including drug and alcohol, cognition, and other experiments. Her grandmother, Wendy, was one of the first chimpanzees captured in Africa and brought to the U.S. for research by Robert M. Yerkes in 1925.

Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories (, a campaign of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, is asking for the immediate release of Wenka and 11 other elder chimpanzees born in the 1950s (along with a companion or family member). “These chimpanzees have been used by science for decades—some in the worst experiments imaginable,” says Theodora Capaldo, EdD, director of Project R&R. “They deserve to spend their remaining years in the safety and dignity of sanctuary.”

Many of the elders have been used in multiple experiments, a common hardship for chimpanzees in laboratories. Jenda, 48, and Boka, 47, were used as toddlers in isolation studies. Jenda was also used in drug and alcohol studies.
A recent independent public opinion survey reveals that 71% of the American public believes that a chimpanzee used for more than 10 years in research should be retired. Approximately 90% of the some 1,200 chimpanzees in U.S. labs have been there for more than 10 years.

Project R&R’s efforts to release these elder chimpanzees before it is too late are supported by chimpanzee experts and scientists, current and former legislators as well as by the American public. The strong 71% vote of public support acknowledges that chimpanzees who have languished in labs for not just 10 years, but 40 or 50 years, deserve release and sanctuary. (In total, 1,678 U.S. adults, age 18 and over completed the survey with valid responses, resulting in a margin of error of about +/- 2.4% at a 95% confidence level. The survey was conducted online with controlled distribution to ensure representation of U.S. adults.)


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