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July 23, 2010

These 202 Chimps Deserve Sanctuary, Not Another Lab

  • Nicole at the Coulston Foundation in the late 1980s. All of the 202 chimpanzees were used in biomedical research experiments prior to being moved to the Alamogordo Primate Facility. Many were infected with HIV and/or hepatitis. 
    Animal Protection of New Mexico

  • A sillouette of Flo in an outdoor enclosure at the Alamogordo Primate Facility. At age 52, Flo is the oldest of the 202 chimpanzees. Female chimpanzees are considered elderly at age 30.
    Animal Protection of New Mexico

Two hundred and two.

That's the total number of chimpanzees the government-run National Center for Research Resources—part of the National Institutes of Health—plans to move to a biomedical research laboratory in Texas where these endangered animals would be readily available for harmful and invasive research experiments.

These chimpanzees have already suffered enough and it would be both more humane and economical to instead retire all of the animals to sanctuary, including the fifteen who have already been moved to Texas. You can help them. Ask the federal government to save these chimps today.

The move would only increase the animals' suffering

Many of the 202 chimpanzees are considered elderly and have already spent decades in laboratories. The oldest, Flo, will turn 52 in September. All have been warehoused at Alamogordo Primate Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico for the past nine years under a costly contract between the government and a private company. In those nine years, none of the animals were used in invasive experiments of any kind, which signals how unnecessary they are for research.

To make matters worse, the animals have already been exposed to suffering: they were previously owned by the Coulston Foundation, a laboratory with a long record of serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, Public Health Service Policy, and Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Help these chimps retire in peace. Act now»

It would be cheaper and easier to retire the chimps

The National Center for Research Resources' plan isn't just inhumane—it's also fiscally irresponsible and short-sighted.

Before the chimpanzees are even moved, the federal government will need to spend significant funds to retrofit the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas to accommodate chimpanzees, yet they have already spent millions in the last several years renovating the New Mexico facility specifically to accommodate the same animals. The additional cost of transporting hundreds of chimpanzees from New Mexico to Texas will likely be in the hundreds of thousands.

Upping the price tag even more, the government has planned to move the chimpanzees in January 2011 instead of May 2011, when the contract to care for the chimpanzees at the New Mexico facility expires. So the government—and the taxpayers—will be paying for their care twice during the five month overlap, at a cost that will exceed $3 million.

The closure will also mean 42 jobs lost at the New Mexico facility, positions that would be saved if the facility is turned into a sanctuary.

These substantial costs will all be for naught if the Great Ape Protection Act (HR 1326) becomes federal law. The bill, which currently has the bi-partisan support of nearly 150 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, would retire all government-owned chimpanzees—including those at the New Mexico facility—to sanctuary.

A better plan

The Humane Society of the United States is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allow all 202 chimpanzees to retire from research at the New Mexico facility where the contract for their care could be taken over by an appropriate nonprofit sanctuary organization. A sanctuary organization could provide much better care at an equal or lower cost than at the San Antonio laboratory—not to mention the substantial savings that would come from not having to pay for new construction or transport.

This more humane plan of action would save taxpayer money and badly needed jobs. And it would allow these chimpanzees—some of whom have lived their entire lives in a laboratory—to finally retire in peace.

Take action now

You can help save these chimps. A growing number of people are asking the National Center for Research Resources' to reverse its decision, including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who stated in a press release, "There is a compassionate and prudent alternative to the National Center for Research Resources' plan, and I feel strongly that we must save the chimpanzees."

We need your voice, too. Tell Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to retire these 202 chimpanzees instead of sending them to another laboratory. Act now.

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