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A New Year's Reprieve for Alamogordo Chimpanzees

The National Institutes of Health has postponed the transfer of 186 chimpanzees to a Texas laboratory

  • At 53, Flo is the oldest chimpanzee at the Alamogordo Primate Facility. Female chimpanzees are considered elderly at age 30.
    Alamogordo Primate Facility

  • Nicole, pictured here at the Coulston Foundation in the late 1980s, was used for decades in biomedical research experiments before being moved to the Alamogordo Primate Facility.
    Animal Protection of New Mexico

  • HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at a press conference to urge a halt to the Alamogordo chimpanzee transfer.
    Jeff Trussell

  • This ad urging the public to take action for Alamogordo chimpanzees appeared in Washington, DC-area metro stations in the fall of 2010.

Plans to move nearly 200 chimpanzees to a biomedical research laboratory have been postponed, thanks to the work of animal welfare organizations, legislators and animal lovers.

The 186 government-owned chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico were slated for transfer to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas beginning in the spring of 2011.

Of the original 202 chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, two have died and fourteen have already been moved to the Texas facility.

Plans on Hold 

On Tuesday, January 4, the  National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially announced that they would not transfer the remaining chimpanzees until the National Academy of Sciences completed a review of policies related to the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, a process that is estimated to take approximately two years.

The decision from NIH follows a letter from U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). to the National Academy of Sciences requesting the “analysis of current and future need for chimpanzee use in biomedical research." Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also called for a similar review when he met with NIH in August to discuss the fate of the Alamogordo chimpanzees.

An All-Out Effort

Since the plans were announced to the public in the summer of 2010, The Humane Society of the United States, Gov. Richardson, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and others, have worked with legislators and the public to encourage the NIH to reverse their decision.

More than 25,000 HSUS supporters, several members of Congress and many others weighed in with Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle joined Gov. Richardson, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Animal Protection of New Mexico at a joint press conference on November 18, urging a halt to the transfer plan. An HSUS-sponsored ad in Washington, D.C-area metro stations publicized the chimpanzees’ plight as well.

More Work Ahead

“The HSUS is very pleased to hear that NIH will not move these chimpanzees while the National Academy of Sciences conducts its study,” says Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for Animal Research Issues at HSUS. “However, the transfer plan has been faulty from the beginning and we are hopeful that this group of chimpanzees will be permanently retired."

The chimpanzees, all of whom have undergone decades of invasive research, have not been used for such research in the last ten years. If they are moved to the Texas laboratory they could again be used in physically and psychologically harmful experiments.

This is an important victory in the battle to protect these chimpanzees from further use in harmful research, but there is still work to be done. Please contact NIH to thank them for this postponement and to let them know that you want the Alamogordo chimpanzees to be retired under the care of an appropriate sanctuary, ensuring that these chimpanzees are never again used in invasive experiments.

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