Chimpanzees Heading to Sanctuary Under New Guidelines

Nathan Herschler, November 9, 2018

Last summer, we at NEAVS asked our supporters to submit comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pleading for the expedited rehoming of former research chimpanzees to sanctuary, something NIH had promised years earlier but had yet to complete. Now we have good news to share!

NIH has announced the development and implementation of a strategy to move their remaining former research chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, away from their current homes in federal research facilities.

A little history: Following a June 2013 decision to “significantly reduce the use of chimpanzees in agency-supported biomedical research,” NIH announced a formal end to chimpanzee research in November 2015. NIH then outlined a drawn-out, decade-long retirement plan during which NIH-owned and -supported chimpanzees would be relocated to Chimp Haven, a federal sanctuary with a capacity for approximately 230 chimpanzees. As time wore on, the process of rehoming the chimpanzees who remained in research facilities proved long and laborious. The public’s discontent with the delay in transferring the aging chimpanzees, especially those who were aged or sickened, was a catalyst for NIH’s analysis of their chimpanzee rehoming process.

The recent announcement to rehome chimpanzees to sanctuary comes months after the May 2018 recommendations from NIH’s Council of Councils’ Working Group on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees which stated NIH “should relocate all of these chimpanzees to the federal sanctuary system unless relocation is extremely likely to shorten their lives.” It was also recommended NIH “oversee the development of standardized approaches … for assessing each chimpanzee based on its health, behavior, social needs, and environmental requirements.” Shortly after the working group’s report was released, NIH asked for public comment; over 4,000 comments from the public were received.

After review of the working group’s recommendations and the public’s comments, NIH Director Francis Collins stated on October 18, 2018 that the 180 chimpanzees remaining in research facilities will be transferred to sanctuary based on NIH’s implementation of uniform standards and independent expert input from veterinarians. You can read NIH’s full Announcement of Agency Decisions here.

NEAVS is hopeful the transfer of NIH’s former research chimpanzees to sanctuary will be accomplished as quickly as possible.

We at NEAVS are so thankful to our supporters who advocated for the transfer of these chimpanzees to sanctuary by submitting comments to NIH over the summer. Your actions have made an impact!

To put a face to the type of journey from laboratory to sanctuary that these chimpanzees endure, meet Emma.