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May 16, 2013

Meet Megan, a Chimpanzee Used in Research

Megan lived in the world's largest chimpanzee laboratory

  • Megan, seen here through a glass divider, at New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana. The Human Spark Chedd-Angier-Lewis

  • Megan with one of her babies at New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana. The Human Spark Chedd-Angier-Lewis

Megan is a 25 year-old chimpanzee—just one of hundreds who, until recently, were kept at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, the world’s largest chimpanzee laboratory.

Following our 2009 undercover investigation at New Iberia—during which we discovered dismal conditions for the chimpanzees and monkeys living there—we received public records that revealed horrific infant deaths and evidence of potentially illegal chimpanzee breeding at the facility.

At New Iberia, Megan was part of a program called the Cognitive Evolution Group (CEG), which involved experiments designed to test chimpanzee intelligence and understanding. In 2010, we were informed that the CEG program had ended and that New Iberia was deciding whether to retire the chimpanzees to sanctuary or keep them at the laboratory and add them to the population of chimpanzees who could be used in harmful research. It is not known whether or not Megan and the other chimpanzees in the CEG group were subsequently used in harmful research.

Babies Taken Away

While in the CEG group at New Iberia, Megan gave birth to at least five infants--all of whom were eventually taken away from her. The father of all of her babies was the lone adult male in her group, Apollo. At least one of the babies was sent to another laboratory for use in experiments as part of a multi-million dollar contract that New Iberia had with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to produce “four to twelve disease- free infants per year.”

Several other government-owned chimpanzees at New Iberia also gave birth to multiple babies despite a contractual agreement with the then National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources, which stated that New Iberia wouldn’t breed government- owned or supported chimpanzees. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has had a moratorium on the breeding of government owned chimpanzees since 1995 due to several factors, including a surplus of chimpanzees in laboratories, a decreasing need for chimpanzees in research and the high cost of maintaining chimpanzees in laboratories.

Seeking Justice for Chimpanzees

In March 2011, in an effort to end the chimpanzee breeding and bring New Iberia to justice, we filed legal petitions with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.

Happy Ending

In December 2011, a groundbreaking report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council found that most biomedical and behavioral research on chimpanzees is unnecessary and could not identify any area of current biomedical research for which chimpanzee use is critical. Further, the report pointed to several available alternatives to chimpanzee use and called for increased support for the development of more alternative research methods.

In December 2012, one year after the Institute of Medicine report was released, the National Institutes of Health announced their decision to permanently retire more than 100 government-owned chimpanzees from New Iberia to the federal chimpanzee sanctuary, Chimp Haven. In March 2013, Megan was released from New Iberia to her new home at Chimp Haven, Inc., where she no longer has to worry about being confined in the laboratory. She now spends her time climbing trees and playing with her group!

We are also happy to report that in September 2011, following the filing of our legal petitions, NIAID canceled their chimpanzee breeding contract with New Iberia. We have not seen evidence of any new chimpanzee births at New Iberia since our petitions were filed.

 View all "Meet the Chimps" profiles »

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