Animal advocates are intervening on behalf of eight chimpanzees currently at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in an attempt to secure their retirement at a sanctuary in the U.S.
While we have a long way to go in the fight against animal research, a lot has changed in recent years for chimpanzees. Following years of campaigning, in 2013 the National Institutes of Health finally announced it would be retiring all but 50 of the chimps it owns or funds.
This past September, both captive chimps were also officially protected under the Endangered Species Act, which now limits what researchers can do with them. The good news is that no permit requests have been filed for invasive research this year, but the bad news is that even though their use is finally coming to an end, there are still many chimpanzees waiting in labs for freedom.
Following the closure of Harvard University’s primate center, Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Georgia is now one of seven operational national primate research centers in the U.S.
Earlier this year, Yerkes announced it would be “donating” eight of its chimpanzees, including two males, Lucas and Fritz, along with six females, Agatha, Abby, Tara, Faye, Georgia, and Elvira, to the Wingham Wildlife Park in the UK.
Their advocates, however, argue that this is an unacceptable outcome for these chimps, who are now entitled to the highest level of protection under the ESA and deserve the very best we can possibly give them at this point in their lives.
Organizations including the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have all raised serious concerns about the harmful impact it will have on them, in addition to the precedent it will set for the future of retired research chimps.
Not only will shipping them overseas cause them unnecessary stress and put them at risk, but Wingham Wildlife Park is an unaccredited zoo with no experience caring for chimpanzees, which may also attempt to breed them in the future.
“This substandard exhibition facility has not previously managed a group of chimpanzees, and has not demonstrated that it has the financial capacity to provide care for the chimpanzees. Worse, Wingham Wildlife Park allows the public to have physical contact with exotic animals for a fee – a dangerous situation for both humans and the animals,” wrote HSUS CEO, Wayne Pacelle.
According to AAVS, sanctuaries in the U.S. have offered to take them, which leaves no valid reason for Yerkes to send them overseas.
Because captive chimps now have full protection as an endangered species, Yerkes will need a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to send these eight chimps to the UK.
The FWS will be accepting public comments until November 16. You can submit one in opposition of permit application PRT – 69024B at regulations.gov asking the FWS to deny Yerkes National Primate Research Center a permit to send these eight chimpanzees to a foreign zoo.
For more info on how to help these and other research chimps, check out the HSUS, AAVS and NEAVS, along with its campaign Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees.