By Wayne Pacelle
Flo lives in a cage in a federal government facility in New Mexico. A life behind bars is not much of a life for a 52-year-old who has committed no crime, and that hardly says enough. But we thought Flo was relatively safe from an even worse fate. We thought that this elderly chimpanzee and 201 others held captive at the Alamogordo Primate Facility would probably never again be in risk of being subjected to harmful experiments.
After all, the time is past for subjecting chimps to painful and unnecessary research, and much of the world is ahead of us in recognizing this fact.
So I’m shocked to report that federal officials are going to relocate Flo and the other chimpanzees to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas. Suddenly, they are in risk of being used in painful and unnecessary experimentation.
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I regret to say that in the hush-hush world of primate research, 15 of the chimps have already been moved—and unfortunately we don’t yet know who was sent.
These chimps are among 1,000 who remain in six U.S. laboratories today. Their suffering can be traced back to the capture of infant chimpanzees from the wild in the 1950s for the space program. Today, sophisticated instruments can be substituted for crash and G-force tests and other experiments. But the government sanctioned breeding of chimps boosted their numbers.
The chimps now at the Alamogordo facility once were housed by the notorious Coulston Foundation, which has had a checkered history of violations of federal animal care laws.
They’ve been through enough. They deserve to be retired.
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The NIH’s National Center for Research Resources plans to move the remaining chimpanzees from Alamogordo to San Antonio by January 2011—arguing that it’s a matter of financial necessity. The truth, however, is that taxpayers would benefit if the chimpanzees were kept in New Mexico and had their care provided by a sanctuary organization.
The wise expenditure of money has never really seemed to be a consideration in this program. The government has paid a private company $42 million to warehouse the Alamogordo chimpanzees for the past ten years, and millions more to renovate the facility, which is located on an air force base. Now, federal officials are pouring more money into construction at the San Antonio research center, and undertaking the substantial costs of transport.
That’s no deal for taxpayers or for chimps.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, along with the Albuquerque Journal, have spoken out against this harmful and wasteful move. Other policymakers and opinion leaders are openly skeptical. The HSUS has joined with Animal Protection of New Mexico and other like-minded groups in urging the Department of Health and Human Services to retire these chimpanzees immediately and let them live out their days in New Mexico without enduring more lab experiments.
Last year, an investigator for The HSUS took you behind laboratory doors at the world’s largest chimpanzee lab, to reveal the continuing plight of our most highly evolved primate cousins. Now there is another critical situation that we must act upon, and we hope you’ll add your voice to this call—because Flo and the other chimpanzees deserve better. After taking action online, please also call the Health and Human Services switchboard at 877-696-6775 and ask them to halt the transfer of these 202 chimpanzees and retire the animals from research.