The Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will soon be deciding whether to accept the recommendations of a Working Group tasked with examining the safety of transferring chimpanzees from facilities that once used them as research subjects to Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
As we reported previously in Science First, since the NIH announced its intention to retire all of the chimpanzees that it owns or supports to sanctuaries nearly three years ago, the relocation process has been taking a long time. This is due to several factors, including a delay by the NIH to develop or communicate a clear plan for chimpanzee transfer, lack of space for all chimpanzees eligible for retirement, and the cost of moving, housing and caring for the chimpanzees.
Of concern now is how to handle the relocation of at-risk chimpanzees—those with age-related conditions or poor health who may be at a higher risk for adverse events to occur during the transfer process. The NIH had tasked a Working Group with assessing the safety of relocating these at-risk chimpanzees, and the Working Group came up with recommendations, which were, overall, very positive.
The Working Group’s recommendations include:
- Transferring all chimpanzees to the sanctuary unless relocation is “extremely likely to shorten their lives.”
- Developing standardized approaches for assessing each chimpanzee.
- Developing shared relocation standard operating procedures for relocating chimpanzees.
- Sharing veterinary records between sending and receiving facilities.
- Ensuring that sending and receiving facilities collaborate to help at-risk chimpanzees.
- Consulting an independent expert when sending and receiving facilities disagree about relocation.
The NIH is inviting the public to comment on these recommendations until this Friday, August 10.
NAVS has submitted our comments on these recommendations, which emphasize the importance of maximizing the number of chimpanzees who qualify for relocation to Chimp Haven and the need to move chimpanzees to the sanctuary as quickly as possible. We also support recommendations designed to provide relocated chimpanzees with the best care possible, as a result of open communication and collaboration between the sending facility and the sanctuary.
We encourage you to submit comments to the NIH through their online form indicating that former research chimpanzees deserve to enjoy their freedom from research institutions and get a fresh start at a sanctuary as soon as possible.
Please note that language that reflects your own opinion is more effective than language copied from prepared comments from any organization, so please be sure to use your own words when commenting.
Ending the use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research was a huge victory—now let’s fulfill their promised retirement by ensuring that every chimp who can be safely moved to their sanctuary is given the opportunity to finally live their life as nature intended.