Chimpanzee Research: Highlights from 1996-2016


  • The U.S. Air Force divests itself of its 141 chimpanzees.


  • Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates closes; 109 chimpanzees are rescued by new and existing sanctuaries including Primate Rescue Center and Fauna Foundation.
  • NIH’s Chimpanzees in Research: Strategies for Their Ethical Care, Management, and Use concludes a higher ethical standard should be applied to chimpanzees and imposes a breeding moratorium.
  • The British government declares it will no longer issue licenses for using great apes in research.


  • The Coulston Foundation (Coulston), a notorious chimpanzee breeding and research facility, comes under increasing scrutiny for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).


  • The U.S. passes the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act providing retirement and lifetime care for chimpanzees no longer needed in research and prohibiting breeding in federal retirement and euthanasia for the convenience of a lab.
  • New Zealand bans chimpanzee use in research, testing, or teaching.


  • The Netherlands begins to phase out (and eventually bans) harmful research on chimpanzees.


  • Coulston declares bankruptcy and collapses.  266 chimpanzees are rescued by Save the Chimps in addition to its 21 former Air Force chimpanzees. 
  • Annie, one of the first chimpanzees captured in Africa and brought to the U.S., dies at the age of 42. Used in research, Annie was also used to breed more chimpanzees for research.
  • The Dutch government prohibits testing on chimpanzees and disbands the last chimpanzee research facility in Europe, the Biomedical Primate Research Center.


  • Sweden bans the use of great apes in biomedical research.
  • John Strandberg, Director of Comparative Medicine at NIH, acknowledges a U.S. ban on chimpanzee research would come as no surprise.


  • The Netherlands officially stops research on chimpanzees.


  • Austria officially forbids experiments on all great apes.
  • The first group of chimpanzees retired under the CHIMP Act arrives at Chimp Haven.
  • The USDA fines Emory University and affiliated Yerkes for death of chimpanzee, Dover.
  • New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) launches comprehensive website as a resource to help end chimpanzee research.


  • Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, NEAVS’ national campaign is launched in Atlanta, GA.
  • PBS begins NATURE’S 25th season with premiere of Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History - a moving first-hand glimpse of the lives of chimpanzees from research to sanctuary.
  • Switzerland calls for a total ban on tests involving great apes.
  • Ohio State University closes its primate research lab and relocates nine chimpanzees to Primarily Primates.
  • The only remaining Japanese pharmaceutical company conducting invasive research on chimpanzees sends its 80 chimpanzees to sanctuary.


  • NIH announces it will no longer fund breeding of NIH chimpanzees, making the 1995 breeding moratorium permanent.
  • NEAVS’ published paper, Chimpanzee Research: An Examination of Its Contribution to Biomedical Knowledge and Efficacy in Combating Human Diseases, concludes research on chimpanzees has not demonstrated significant or essential contribution towards human health.
  • The U.S. passes the “Chimp Haven is Home Act,” prohibiting retired chimpanzees in federal sanctuary from being returned to research.
  • The New York Blood Center (NYBC) closes its Vilab II research facility and purchases islands off the coast of Liberia as “sanctuary” for 74 chimpanzees.
  • A report by Science reveals the U.S. is the last country conducting biomedical research on chimpanzees, holding some 1,100 chimpanzees.


  • NEAVS’ published paper, Building an Inner Sanctuary: Complex PTSD in Chimpanzees, reveals post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicts chimpanzees from labs the same as it does human trauma survivors.
  • Bipartisan legislators introduce The Great Ape Protection Act to end invasive research and testing on chimpanzees in the U.S.
  • Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest welcomes the last remaining chimpanzees from the Buckshire Corporation lab, closed in 2005.
  • NEAVS’ published paper, An Assessment of the Role of Chimpanzees in AIDS Vaccine Research, concludes vaccine responses in chimpanzees are not predictive of responses in humans, and claims of chimpanzees’ importance in AIDS vaccine development are without foundation.


  • The Great Ape Protection Act is reintroduced.
  • NEAVS’ published paper, Developmental Context Effects on Bicultural Post-Trauma Self Repair in Chimpanzees, documents the emotional trauma chimpanzees from research and being taken from their mothers sustain.
  • NEAVS’ published paper, An Examination of Chimpanzee Use in Human Cancer Research, shows chimpanzees a poor model for cancer research, and that it would be unscientific to claim they are vital to such research or it would be hindered without them.
  • Project R&R’s beloved chimpanzee Ambassador, Tom, dies at Fauna Foundation at the age of 44. Born in Africa, Tom spent 30 years in research before his rescue in 1997.


  • New Mexico Governor Richardson declares his support for stopping the transfer of chimpanzees from a New Mexico holding facility to a Texas lab.
  • NEAVS/Project R&R Science Director, Dr. Jarrod Bailey, meets with legislators to explain how  ending chimpanzee research will not have a negative impact on human health, and provides  abstracts of our scientific papers, and petitions with nearly 2,000 scientists’ in support of ending chimpanzee research including physicians, Ph.D.s, eminent scientists, renowned chimpanzee experts, and international luminaries such as Jane Goodall, Desmond Morris, and Sir David Attenborough, as well as international humane charities and U.S. groups.
  • NEAVS gives a start-up grant to the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), an alliance of leaders of seven chimpanzee sanctuaries to “advance…exceptional sanctuary care, collaboration, and outreach.”
  • The European Union (E.U.) bans the use of great apes in research.
  • NEAVS’ two published papers on the use of chimpanzees in Hepatitis C research refute the claim that chimpanzees are necessary or useful in Hepatitis C research and demonstrate the advances made using non-animal research methods.


  • NIH announces the transfer of 186 chimpanzees at the New Mexico holding facility to federal sanctuary will be delayed “pending an Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences’ study to reassess scientific need for chimpanzees.” NEAVS’ Science Director is one of only two animal protection scientists invited to testify.
  • The IOM concludes, “most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary.”  NIH accepts the findings and assembles a Working Group to implement.


  • NEAVS and co-petitioners including: The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), Save the Chimps, Fauna Foundation, Animal Protection of New Mexico, The Kerulos Center, Senator Bob Smith, and Friends of Washoe submit a Rulemaking Petition to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, “To Set Criteria for Determining when Chimpanzees are No Longer Needed for Research and Must be Retired and Sent to Sanctuary as Required by the CHIMP Act."
  • NEAVS’ final published paper, A Review of Autopsy Reports on Chimpanzees in or from U.S. Laboratories, reveals the majority of chimpanzees who died in labs had been suffering chronic or incurable or multi-system diseases that should have made them ineligible for future research and retired on scientific and ethical grounds.


  • The first chimpanzees retired from the New Iberia Research Center arrive at federal sanctuary, Chimp Haven.
  • NIH announces it will retire nearly 90% of its chimpanzees, though it will keep a “reserve” of up to 50 for “future potential research.”


  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announces it will give the same endangered status and protections to chimpanzees held in captivity as it does their free-living relatives in Africa. FWS Director, Dan Ashe, admits the split-listing had been a “mistake.” The decision reverses a decades-long policy that contributed to the inhumane and wasteful use of chimpanzees in biomedical research.
  • NEAVS and co-signatories post arguments on the FWS Federal Register opposing the issuance of a Yerkes permit application to send eight now-endangered chimpanzees — Lucas, Fritz, Agatha, Abby, Tara, Faye, Elvira, and Georgia — to an unaccredited wildlife park in the U.K. and instead place them in an accredited U.S. sanctuary — to assure their recently awarded higher Endangered Species Act protections are not undermined for them and all chimpanzees still held in U.S. labs.
  • NEAVS pledges funding for sanctuary lifetime care for Georgia, the matriarch.
  • ​NIH Director Collins announces: “We [have] reached a point where… the need for [chimpanzee] research has essentially shrunk to zero.”


  • The Yerkes permit was ultimately granted, at least in part due to the challenge in demonstrating standing, presiding Judge Jackson Brown issued a strong rebuke of the FWS interpretation and application of the Endangered Species Act. The outcome could potentially be useful in bolstering future animal protection cases.