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A Child is Born to the Wingham Chimpanzees

A Child is Born to the Wingham Chimpanzees

News broke yesterday that a baby girl has been born to Tara and Fritz, two of the ‘Yerkes 7’ chimpanzees formerly held at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, who were transferred and are now living out the remainder of their lives on exhibition at Wingham Wildlife Park, a roadside zoo in Kent, England. 

NEAVS’ call to action to block the permit for this transfer when it first appeared was joined by sanctuaries across the U.S., Canada and Africa, conservation organizations worldwide, and other animal protection groups, as well as hundreds of chimpanzee experts. NEAVS worked to try to secure that these retired laboratory chimpanzees be sent to an accredited U.S. sanctuary. In 2015, the U.S. became the last developed country to effectively end chimpanzee research. The resulting population of former U.S. laboratory chimpanzees leaves us with the obligation to retire them to sanctuary where their needs are the priority.

Moving chimpanzees from a life of exploitation in a laboratory to a life of exploitation on exhibition is not what their retirement should hold.

NEAVS’ determination to stop the transfer was to protect these chimpanzees as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, to prevent a precedent for labs to divest of their chimpanzees to unaccredited facilities worldwide, and to prevent further captive births based on our concerns given Wingham’s history of unbridled breeding of many different species. 

Breeding policies at Wingham warned that due diligence to make certain no chimpanzees were born to this group would not be taken. As do accredited U.S. sanctuaries, NEAVS does not believe that more animals should be born into a life condemned to captivity and exhibition. Breeding captive baby chimpanzees also carries conservation implications for endangered wild populations. It is well-documented that baby chimpanzees on display in zoos help to fuel the chimpanzee black market by creating more public desire for infant chimpanzees. Experts and leading conservation organizations including the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the European Endangered Species Programme, and world-renowned chimpanzee expert Dr. Richard Wrangham joined NEAVS’ efforts and spoke in opposition to sending the Yerkes chimpanzees to Wingham. Concerns centered on challenging U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not upholding the full intent of the Endangered Species Act by its issuing a permit to the lab to transfer its chimpanzees to a foreign roadside zoo that was not part of any chimpanzee species survival program.

That a baby has now been born at Wingham confirms NEAVS’ fears that the 'Yerkes 7'—after suffering years in laboratory research—will now be subjected to further exploitation, and that even more chimpanzees will be condemned to a lifetime in captivity for financial gains of a commercial zoo. Wingham’s disturbing history of breeding—including endangered species outside of species survival programs—and offering of animal “experiences,” where members of the public can interact directly with exotic animals, makes practices at Wingham highly suspect in light of U.S. regulations and best practice at U.S. sanctuaries regarding both breeding and human and animal interactions. However, having been transferred outside of the U.S. and deprived of their right to spend the remainder of their lives in an accredited U.S. sanctuary, the 'Yerkes 7' are no longer within the reach of U.S. laws.

If news of this new arrival makes you angry, not celebratory, you are not alone. NEAVS was a major player in ending the use of chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories, led efforts to block this transfer from Yerkes to Wingham, and remains vigilant to make certain this is not the fate of other chimpanzees waiting in U.S. labs for their turn at sanctuary. Read more about the important work NEAVS has done to end the use of chimpanzees in laboratories and to support their release to sanctuary, and to learn how you can help.