August 15, 2013

 

 Most NIH research chimps to be retired

Posted July 31, 2013

 

The National Institutes of Health announced plans June 26 to substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research that the agency funds and to retire most of the 451 chimpanzees the NIH either owns or supports.



Chimpanzees at Chimp Haven grooming and playing with one another
Courtesy of Chimp Haven
 
NIH Director Francis S. Collins accepted most of the recommendations of an independent advisory committee for implementing a set of principles and criteria developed by the Institute of Medicine regarding the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded research (see JAVMA, March 15, 2013, regarding the recommendations).

“Americans have benefited greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” Dr. Collins said. “Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research but also demands greater justification for their use.

“After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”
 
The NIH will maintain a colony of up to 50 nonbreeding chimpanzees for potential biomedical research needs. The remaining chimpanzees could eventually join more than 150 chimpanzees that are already in the Federal Sanctuary System managed by Chimp Haven.

While accepting most of the recommendations on the ethologically appropriate facilities for the unretired chimpanzees, the NIH cited a lack of scientific consensus regarding the recommendation that the primary living space of research chimpanzees be at least 1,000 square feet per chimpanzee. The agency will consult with chimpanzee behavior and facilities experts to determine the appropriate minimum space requirement for research chimpanzees.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently issued a proposed rule that lists captive chimpanzees as endangered. The NIH said the agency expects to adapt its policies for research projects using chimpanzees to comply with the conservation guidelines the USFWS establishes in a potential final rule.