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Retired NIH chimpanzees aren’t guaranteed sanctuaries

Government-supported medical research using chimpanzees in the United States has come to an end, but now these bruised and battered closest relative to human are likely homeless for the time being.

The 310 chimps that were ‘retired’ from genetic and behavioral studies are considered damaged, and their release back into the wild is out of the question.  Hence, the question of where to house them has arose in the midst of the celebratory glee that some animal rights activists are enjoying.

One would think that, after years of undergoing invasive medical research procedures, the 310 chimps are guaranteed a home and three meals a day during their retirement until death, but that’s not the case.  Their road to sanctuaries are currently met with spikes, with the main reason being funds to support their new life.

Chimps in the wild generally cover two to three miles a day according to Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist studying chimpanzees at Duke University.  However, chimps that have been kept in captivity for years usually have much less space to move about.  Although there are no specific standards when it comes to space needed for a chimp to maintain physical and mental wellness, 1,000 square feet per chimp might be the magic number.  Still, the problems of location and funding are still major obstacles.

Even with all the hurdles, it goes without saying that the freed chimps do have many allies on their side—both private as well as government.

“We’re going to be doing all we can get the 310 chimps into sanctuary,” said Kathleen Conlee, animal research director of the Humane Society of the United States.


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