NEW ORLEANS — A Boston-based animal advocacy group wants all 110 federal research chimpanzees being retired from a lab run by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette moved to Chimp Haven, the national sanctuary in northwest Louisiana for retired federal research chimpanzees.
The sanctuary would love to take them all but only has space for 20, Chimp Haven spokeswoman Karen Allen said. A partly completed 50-animal expansion was derailed when construction costs skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, she said.
The National Institutes of Health plans to move about 10 of the chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, putting the sanctuary in Keithville “at or near full occupancy,” according to a brief statement Thursday. The New Iberia Research Center did not apply to renew a grant that expires next August, and the agency will no longer use those animals for research.
The 100 chimps that don’t go to Keithville will be moved to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, NIH spokesman John Burklow said. The institute would be paid to take care of the monkeys and they would not be used for research, the NIH said.
“Close but no cigar,” Theodora Capaldo, president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, said in a news release. “While we applaud the fact that 110 chimpanzees will now be safe from research, the fact that NIH continues to make decisions that grant laboratories significant funding to keep chimpanzees and deprive chimpanzees the comfort of sanctuary is tantamount to a kind of cronyism that has to end.”
Allen said she didn’t know why Chimp Haven, which has 125 animals, won’t be getting as many as they have space for. “We’re hoping they will consider 20 because we have the room,” she said.
NIH advisers are considering all options, said a statement released in response to questions about the number of animals going to Chimp Haven.
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance has said its seven members, including Chimp Haven, could arrange housing for any retired federal chimps for less federal money than needed to keep them in San Antonio. The six other members could add 75 animals to the 346 they care for, chairwoman Sarah Baeckler said.
“Given the opportunity, we’d build for all of them,” she said.
NIH pays laboratories $56.30 per day per chimp, while sanctuary costs average $41 per animal per day, Baeckler said.
The other sanctuaries don’t meet federal requirements to subcontract with Chimp Haven to care for retired chimpanzees, NIH indicated.
“They may not have everything the government requires today, but they certainly could,” Allen said.
The New Iberia center faced allegations of mistreating chimpanzees and monkeys in 2009, and investigators for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service found that it hadn’t complied with the Animal Welfare Act.
The same agency fined Texas Biomed more than $25,000 in January for violating that law because two baboons and a rhesus monkey had escaped. The monkey was so weakened by cold it had to be euthanized, the agency’s notice said.
“Making the chimpanzees ineligible for experimentation is an excellent start, but it makes no sense to send 100 of them to a controversial research lab,” Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a news release.
Allen said it would cost about $1.8 million to finish the expansion at Chimp Haven and $2.5 million to accommodate all the chimpanzees being moved from New Iberia.
“With 200 acres we have a lot of room. But we need more facilities,” she said.
North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance: www.primatesanctuaries.org/
APHIS letter to Texas Biomed: http://1.usa.gov/RlYhkC