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01/21/2013

What happens to “retired” research chimps?  »

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NPR had a nice report on Friday about the lives of chimps after they have been “retired” from scientific study, specifically those at the National Institutes of Health. Yes, “retired” is a bullshit term and life for lab animals is horrific, but obfuscatory vocabulary shouldn’t detract from the actual greatness of taking chimpanzees out of those labs; we made their lives hell, but now we are taking them out of that hell.

NPR focuses on two facilities that take in research chimps, Save the Chimps in Florida, and Chimp Haven in Louisiana. Both sanctuaries tell science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce that they are willing and able to take in more of the NIH’s retired chimps (which number in the hundreds), but because “Congress put a [$30 million] cap on how much the agency can spend on chimp sanctuaries when it passed the CHIMP Act in 2000,” and the NIH has already spent almost $29 million so far. Save the Chimps and Chimp Haven are raising more money to meet demand, but for 100 recently retired chimps, the NIH instead chose to make them “ineligible for experiments,” and “moved [them] to a different lab that had space to house them” instead of sending them to sanctuaries.

The cost of keeping a chimp in a lab for a year, $15,000, is close to the annual cost of housing a chimp in a sanctuary. As Greenfieldboyce reports, the sanctuaries are working on raising $5 million right now to take on the retired chimps, as well as make room for chimps expected to be retired by the NIH soon. The story is an interesting read (and better listen), if you can get past the “retired” euphemism. Because come on, NIH, none of these chimpanzees ever applied for the “jobs” you gave them.

[Photo of Chimp Haven resident by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr]

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