Chimpanzees in Research – Digital Media Kit

NIH Decision

In 2015, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins announced that NIH would no longer support biomedical research on chimpanzees.  In support of that decision, NIH developed a plan for retiring the NIH-owned and -supported chimpanzees at three primate facilities to the federal sanctuary operated by Chimp Haven, Inc., in Keithville, Louisiana.  The plan was developed in accordance with the amended Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act (CHIMP Act). NIH owns or supports chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, and at three primate facilities: Alamogordo Primate Facility (Chimpanzee Reserve), New Mexico; Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, Bastrop, Texas; and Southwest National Primate Research Center, San Antonio.  Chimpanzees are relocated from the primate facilities to the sanctuary as space at the sanctuary allows and on a timescale that allows for optimal transition of each individual chimpanzee with careful consideration to their welfare, including their health and social grouping.

NIH conducts an annual census of the chimpanzees it owns or supports after the end of each fiscal year (October 1-September 30) to provide official figures on their numbers and cost of care. Breeding of NIH chimpanzees ended in 1995 and the total number of chimpanzees decreases annually as a result of normal mortality of this aging population.

Relocation Process

Relocation and resocialization are recognized as major stress-inducers in chimpanzees and can potentially affect animal health and well-being, especially in geriatric animals with multiple co-morbidities and chronic conditions. Approximately half of the NIH chimpanzees are considered geriatric. Chronic disorders may include diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders, hepatic and renal disorders, and geriatric status. These health conditions affect the anticipated likelihood of surviving the physical transfer process and may create additional risks during formation of new social groups and adapting to a new environment.

The process of preparing animals for transfer, the transfer itself, and the process of introducing animals to a new environment including new social groups are all critical factors to consider in ensuring the welfare of these animals as they are relocated to the federal sanctuary. As part of the transfer process, chimpanzees are medically evaluated by veterinarians with expertise in the care of chimpanzees to determine an animal’s health status and their ability to withstand a move.

Anticipating that some chimpanzees may not be able to move for health reasons, the three primate facilities and Chimp Haven worked together to develop standard criteria to evaluate and compare the health of the chimpanzees at their locations. If the attending veterinarian at a primate facility determines that a chimpanzee is unable to move due to health risks, the chimpanzee(s) are evaluated by a panel of NIH veterinarians independent of the three primate facilities, Chimp Haven, and the NIH Chimpanzee Program.  The Panel uses a defined protocol to evaluate the chimpanzees and provides their assessment to the NIH Deputy Director for Program, Coordination, Planning and Strategic Coordination, who oversees the Chimpanzee Management Program, on whether the chimpanzee(s) should remain in place or relocate to Chimp Haven.

Timeline

February 2019:  NIH publishes a standardized chimpanzee health categorization framework to inform relocation decisions of at-risk chimpanzees.

October 2018:  NIH announces its decisions on relocating at-risk chimpanzees.

May 2018:  Council of Councils provides recommendations on factors to be considered by veterinary staff when deciding to relocate at-risk NIH-owned and -supported chimpanzees to the Federal sanctuary. 

February 2018:  NIH charges a working group of the Council of Councils to assess the safety of relocating at-risk chimpanzees.

August 2016:  NIH develops plan to retire NIH-owned and -supported chimpanzees

November 2015: NIH announces it will no longer support biomedical research using chimpanzees

June 2015:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes rule listing all chimpanzees as endangered under the endangered species act

June 2013:  NIH announces it will significantly reduce the use of chimpanzees in research

January 2013:  NIH Council of Councils present recommendations for how to implement the NAS recommendations.

December 2011: NIH Director accepts National Academy of Sciences recommendations and charges a working group of the Council of Councils to make recommendation on how to implement them.

December 2011: The National Academies (then the Institute of Medicine) issues report: Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. Concludes that most current use of chimpanzees in biomedical research is unnecessary and that the use of chimpanzees in research that may still be needed should be guided by a set of principles and criteria.

December 2010: NIH Director commissioned a study by the Institute of Medicine to determine the continued scientific need for chimpanzees in NIH-funded research.

B-Roll

B-roll of the Alamogordo Primate Facility, New Mexico. For complete file, contact Wally Akinso.

This page last reviewed on January 23, 2020