The Ohio State University is closing its Primate Research Center and retiring the chimpanzees to an animal refuge in Texas.
The nine chimps housed at the center will be moved to a San Antonio refuge where they will live out the remainder of their lives. No research is allowed on animals kept at the refuge.
The decision, announced Feb. 21, is the culmination of a nearly four-year effort to find a new home for the animals.
Research institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and NASA have been reducing the amount of primate research they conduct and retiring many of their animals.
University officials noted that funding for primate research has been shrinking in recent years, and university-based primate colonies are becoming harder to support.
Along with overcrowding at the current facility, university officials cited safety concerns as another reason for retiring the chimps. The animals are five times stronger than humans and pose formidable challenges when agitated. Moreover, overpopulation at the facility can increase stress within the colony itself, leading to attacks by one animal on another.
During the past two decades, studies at the Primate Research Center have led to notable discoveries. For instance, one project recognized the chimps' ability to perform rudimentary addition and subtraction while another showed their capacity for altruism, a trait long thought to be only human.
Under an agreement with Primarily Primates Inc., the animals will be transported by truck to the Texas facility where a new permanent facility is being built for them. The Ohio State University is paying for construction of the facility, medical examinations and shipping, and an endowment to support the animals.
"While we are rightfully proud of the outstanding research that has evolved from Ohio State's primate cognition project in the last decade or so, we believe the time is now right to move the animals to safer quarters where they can live out their lives in peace," said Robert McGrath, PhD, OSU senior vice president for research.