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April 16, 2013

Haven Can't Wait: A Timeline of Progress for Chimpanzees

The last two decades have seen increased speed on the road to sanctuary

All Animals magazine, May/June 2013

  • Caught in the wild as an infant, 49-year-old Penny spent decades in a research laboratory before being retired to Chimp Haven in 2011. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Harmful research on humans' closest living genetic relative has been controversial since its beginnings in the U.S. in the 1920s. By the 1990s, with the realization that great apes are poor models for studying diseases such as AIDS, researchers were joining advocates in asking what to do with all the “surplus” chimps. Behind the scenes and before Congress, The HSUS has been working to influence the course of this conversation.

1995: A decade after a government-sponsored breeding boom, the National Institutes of Health places a moratorium on breeding government-owned chimps.

1997: The National Research Council states that it would be unethical to euthanize surplus research chimps and recommends the creation of sanctuaries.

New York University’s Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates closes.

Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico divests itself of its chimpanzee colony, first established in the 1950s.

2000: The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act establishes a plan for long-term care of surplus research chimps.

In New Mexico, the NIH takes ownership of nearly 300 chimps at the notorious Coulston Foundation and transfers them to the Alamogordo Primate Facility.

2002: The Coulston Foundation loses NIH funding and goes out of business; Save the Chimps sanctuary rescues the remaining chimps.

2005: Chimp Haven, chosen by the NIH to be the national chimpanzee sanctuary, welcomes its first residents, Rita and Teresa.

2007: The moratorium on breeding government-owned chimps is made permanent following HSUS-led pressure from the public.

The Chimp Haven Is Home Act closes a loophole that would have allowed federally owned retired chimps to be called back into research.

2008: Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline ends the use of chimpanzees.

2009: The USDA investigates the New Iberia Research Center following an HSUS undercover exposé.

2010: Animal protection groups mount opposition to the planned transfer of 200 chimps from a New Mexico warehousing facility to a Texas lab. After 14 are transferred, the NIH postpones the plan.

2011: An HSUS petition alleges government fraud by New Iberia for unlawfully breeding chimps.

The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act is reintroduced in Congress. An NIH-commissioned Institute of Medicine study recommends strict criteria
for chimpanzee use.

Idenix Pharmaceuticals adopts a policy against chimpanzee research.

2012: Bioqual in Maryland ends its invasive chimp research program, leaving only five laboratories with chimps in the U.S.

The NIH commits to send more than 100 government-owned New Iberia chimps to Chimp Haven after originally planning to send all but a few to a Texas lab.

2013: Gilead Sciences agrees not to use chimps in research.

An NIH working group recommends that all but 50 government-owned research chimps be sent to sanctuary and that the rest be kept in ethologically appropriate environments.

The transfer of government-owned chimps from New Iberia to Chimp Haven begins.

Help us send more chimpanzees to Chimp Haven »

Get the All Animals App for the iPad© to watch a video and slideshow of Chimp Haven's new residents »

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