The Government Is Retiring Hundreds of Chimps from Biochemical Research
I hate to paint with a broad brush here, but primates in America have horrible lives. Sure, there are your One Percenters like Koko and Bubbles the Chimp, but by and large, the US is essentially one big Bergen-Belsen for our oldest living ancestors. Some are forced to do parlor tricks for street performers and others are stuck in cages for pasty-skinned families to gawk at, but perhaps the most unlucky of the lot are used as research subjects by the government.
Chimpanzees share about 96 percent of our DNA. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the government is quite partial to that particular primate when looking for test subjects. Recently, the National Institute of Health issued a statement saying that it “plans to substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical research,” effectively retiring 310 chimpanzees from the system. “Where are all the newly freed chimpanzees going to go?” You might be asking as thoughts of Bedtime for Bonzo dance through your head. Many will be heading to Chimp Haven, a wildlife sanctuary about 20 miles southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana.
At the risk of sounding like a PETA spokesperson, let me quickly give you the CliffsNotes on how Chimp Haven came into being.
As mentioned above, the US is fond of experimenting on chimpanzees, but because they are endangered, the government had to resort to breeding them in captivity beginning in the 1980s in order to produce more live subjects for the study of diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
By the 1990s, technological advancements in the biomedical field spawned new research models that didn’t require chimps. That eventually left the US government with a lot of sick, unwanted great apes on its hands. To help chimpanzees make the transition from working in experimental medicine to retirement, a league of primatologists and other professionals established Chimp Haven in 1995.