The National Institutes of Health (NIH) informed outgoing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that nearly 200 chimpanzees, who had faced transfer to a research laboratory this year, will remain at their New Mexico home, for now.
Following months of protest by animal advocates; several animal groups, including AAVS; scientists like Jane Goodall; leaders from Congress; and Governor Richardson, NIH decided to put plans for transferring the chimps to the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) in Texas on hold. NIH will make a final decision on a placement for the chimpanzees following the completion of a study by the National Academy of Sciences, which will assess the "need" for the continued use of chimps in research.
In 2002, the chimpanzees were relinquished to NIH following the closure of a now defunct laboratory that had a long history of violating animal welfare laws. The chimps remained in New Mexico, and their housing facilities were renovated, allowing the animals to live in social groups and go outside—a move which greatly improved their well-being. NIH became responsible for their care, and entered into a contract agreement that the chimps would not be used in research for 10 years. However, May 2011 marks the end to the contract and, consequently, NIH announced plans to move the chimpanzees to the SNPRC, which has also been cited several times for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Conversely, animal advocates have noted that the chimpanzees are eligible for retirement, in accordance with provisions through the CHIMP (Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection) Act of 2000. It is hoped that the NIH study will recommend that chimpanzees are not needed in biomedical research, allowing the U.S. to join the European Union which banned the practice last year.
Read NIH's statement regarding the Alamogordo chimpanzees