For decades medical researchers have used chimpanzees in research, rarely to the benefit of the chimps. But with advances in technology, medical research no longer relies on these long-loved animals for testing. But what to do with them when they are "retired?"
In 2002 the Federal government established The Federal Sanctuary System, and the nonprofit organizations that participated were dedicated to the welfare of the chimpanzees.
"These animals have made important contributions to research to improve human health, but new technologies have reduced the need for their continued use in research," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "We are grateful to all of the organizations that have pulled together to help us transition these animals into formal retirement."
The place these chimps will call home is Chimp Haven sanctuary near Shreveport, Louisiana. Already home to over 100 federal research chimps, the facility will have to add living space for the newcomers.
"NIH does not have construction funds available to contribute to the effort to increase capacity for the New Iberia chimpanzees. NIH also is nearing a cap on the cumulative dollar amount Congress set for the Federal Sanctuary System under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act . Chimp Haven, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, an independent non-profit, have launched coordinated fundraising campaigns to support the $2.3 million construction project to accommodate all the chimpanzees."
Folks who want to donate can help the effort. But there's another way to both help Chimp Haven, and learn about their activities, and these amazing Chimpanzees. Chimp Haven is open for visitors. It is one of the very few around the country that does so. Once a month, the gates at Chimp Haven swing open to visitors on Discovery Days. I've been there, and it is a fascinating experience.