No Room In NW For Hundreds Of Retiring Research Chimps

By Tom Banse

The National Institutes of Health announced today it will retire the great majority of chimpanzees used in federally-supported medical research. The institute director says the use of our closest animal relative for invasive studies can no longer be justified in most cases. That means more than 300 chimps are headed into retirement. Neither of the two chimpanzee sanctuaries here in the Northwest say they're prepared to take new chimps though. 

The outreach director for Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest near Cle Elum, Wash., reacted with delight to the phase out.

Diana Goodrich: "It's just such a huge step forward in terms of finally getting to the end of the use of chimpanzees in biomedical experimentation."

Diana Goodrich says it would be tricky for her sanctuary to accept new residents because chimpanzees are territorial.

Diana Goodrich: "We could theoretically fit more chimps into the group. But the challenging part would be introducing them. In order for us to expand, we would have to kind of create a Plan B just in case things didn't work out."

Goodrich says her central Washington sanctuary doesn't intend in the near term to build the needed separate facility. A spokesperson at a different sanctuary in Bend, Ore., with eight apes says it also lacks room for new residents. So several much larger primate sanctuaries in the American South will probably be first in line.

Central Washington University also operates a chimpanzee facility, but it won't be accepting any of the retiring medical research chimps either.

"Unfortunately, we won't be able to contribute," said Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute director Mary Lee Jensvold.

In fact, she says CWU has begun the process of transferring its two remaining chimps to a sanctuary in Canada because the university cannot afford renovations to its compound.

Goodrich says to the best of her knowledge no medical labs in the Northwest employ chimpanzees for research. "There are a lot of smaller primates (used), macaque monkeys in particular," she said.

Web extras:

National Institutes of Health announcement:

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (Cle Elum, WA):

Chimps, Inc. (Bend, Oregon):

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