Retired in Place: National Institutes of Health Announces Decision to Prioritize Chimpanzee Health, Safety, and Psychological Well-being

Forty-four elderly and frail chimpanzees will not be forced to leave their social groups or partners to endure a stressful cross-country move, quarantine, and introduction to new housing at the federally-funded US chimpanzee sanctuary, according to an announcement posted today by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH’s announcement provides a public view of the decision-making process, criteria, and veterinarians’ conclusions about the likely impact of a move for each animal, including a description of their medical conditions. The decisions posted today are about NIH-owned chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), one of three research facilities at which NIH houses and supports chimpanzees.

The NIH announcement describes the animals’ care and housing in the following terms:

“Chimpanzees at APF have indoor/outdoor living conditions in structures called Primadomes that allow them to climb and swing. They have strong dependency on their social groups as well as close bonds with their caretakers, from whom they receive excellent care.”

The NIH site hosting today’s announcement features a video from Alamogordo that was posted on NIH’s YouTube channel on October 22. A pdf linked in the announcement provides information about the condition and veterinary panel recommendation for each chimpanzee (see example image below).

Example veterinary recommendation. Source:

Decisions about chimpanzees at the Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Bastrop, Texas and the Southwest National Primate Center in San Antonio, Texas do not yet appear to have been made, but are referenced in the October 2019 census posted here, as well as in today’s NIH statement:

“NIH will continue to relocate all NIH-owned or -supported chimpanzees at the other two primate facilities that can safely move to Chimp Haven. Over the last year, 59 chimpanzees were relocated from the Keeling Center to the federal sanctuary. Plans are being made to begin moving NIH-supported chimpanzees at the Southwest National Primate Center to Chimp Haven. However, we anticipate that some chimpanzees at these two locations also will need to remain in place for health reasons.  All decisions will be captured in our annual census.”

Speaking of Research has written extensively for many years about the range of decision-making that has affected chimpanzees and chimpanzee research in the US (see below). When NIH’s decisions have appeared to jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of chimpanzees owned by NIH we have expressed our concern and joined others in calling for changes in the process.

Today, we applaud NIH’s announcement and their support of a decision-making process that prioritizes the chimpanzees and their humane care.

Speaking of Research 


Previous links and reading at SR:

11/14/18: Guest Post: Save the Bastrop Chimpanzees

11/05/18: NIH Announces Final Decisions to Relocate Chimpanzees

8/25/16: Public dialogue about US research chimpanzee retirement: Unanswered questions

8/12/16:  What is science?

8/10/16:  Sanctuary, zoo, lab:  Name games or core differences?

8/3/16:  Zoo-sanctuary partnership:  Lincoln Park Zoo and federally funded retired chimpanzee sanctuary announce new research program

8/1/16:  Can we agree?  An ongoing dialogue about where retired research chimpanzees should live

7/14/16:  Do politics trump chimpanzee well-being?  Questions raised about deaths of US research chimpanzees at federally funded sanctuary.

12/5/15:  Where should US chimpanzees live?

2/9/15: Chimpanzee retirement: Facts, myths, and motivation

12/17/11: Afterthoughts on IOM report on the use of chimpanzees in scientific research

12/08/11 What Cost Savings? A Closer Look at the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011

11/21/11:  A closer look at the great ape protection act

10/13/11:  Guest post:  Efforts to ban chimpanzee research are misguided

8/12/11:  Facts must inform discussion of future of chimpanzee research