Animal Writes
20 January 1999 Issue

Chimpanzees: Our Closest Living Relatives

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas.
Chimpanzees and humans share 99 percent of their genetic composition.
Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, probably more so than human-based tests
are able to measure. They make and use tools, cooperate with and learn from
each other, and can learn various forms of expression and communication,
including American Sign Language and computer symbols. Chimpanzees also
have good memories.

Habitats Being Destroyed
Fewer than 250,000 chimpanzees still exist in western and central Africa.(1)
Chimpanzees now occupy only a fraction of their former territory. Chimpanzee
habitats, already small and isolated, are being further destroyed by increased
commercial and agricultural development. In Africa, both species of chimp-
anzees--pan paniscus and pan troglodytes--are considered endangered. The
U.S. Department of the Interior also lists them as endangered.

There are approximately 2,000 captive chimpanzees in the United States.
About 300 are in zoos, and the remaining 1,700 were bred for medical
research.(2) Many are the offspring of chimpanzees captured in the wild before
1973, when the United States agreed to abide by an international treaty
prohibiting the capture and importation of wild chimpanzees.

Captive Breeding
Any increased use of chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories must rely on captive
breeding. However, chimpanzees who are taken from their mothers before the
age of four or five years seldom develop the social skills necessary for normal
breeding. Female chimpanzees do not begin breeding until they are about 12
years old, and thereafter do not breed at all during each baby's four- to six-year
infancy. Artificial insemination has increased breeding only slightly.
Chimpanzees infected with AIDS, hepatitis, or other diseases usually cannot be used for
breeding. Unwanted chimpanzees from zoos and circuses are sometimes sold
to laboratories.

Chimpanzees are still captured in the wild by poachers who shoot chimpanzee
mothers and then take their infants. Many of the captured baby chimpanzees
die before they reach a laboratory. Because the adults protect the infants,
several adults are sometimes killed to obtain one baby.

Popular in AIDS Research
Chimpanzees are now popular subjects for AIDS research, although their
immune system does not succumb to the virus. Chimpanzees are also used in
painful cancer, hepatitis, and psychological tests, as well as for research into
artificial insemination and birth control methods, blood diseases, organ
transplants, and experimental surgery. Their use in military experiments is
suspected, but such information is kept secret and is hard to verify. Because
they are in short supply, captive chimps are often subjected to multiple
experiments, each of which can last an average of two to four years.

Chimpanzees are highly active and very socially oriented. When kept isolated
in laboratories with no regular physical contact with either humans or other
chimps, they quickly become psychotic.

Because adult chimpanzees are strong and often unmanageable, and because
infected chimpanzees cannot be placed in zoos or existing sanctuaries, many
chimpanzees are killed before the age of 10. (The normal lifespan of a
chimpanzee is 40 to 50 years.) Others, perhaps not as lucky, are kept in tiny
cages for decades at such places as Buckshire Corp., a USDA-licensed animal
dealer exposed by PETA in 1994 for housing 42 chimpanzees in abysmal
substandard cages.

Chimpanzee Management Plan
During the late 1980s, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed its so-
called "National Chimpanzee Management Plan." This plan is, in reality, just a
funding mechanism for five breeding colonies to maintain a steady supply of
chimpanzees for vivisectors. Under a series of grants, the plan established
breeding colonies of chimps at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center
in Atlanta, the University of Texas in Bastrop, the Primate Foundation of Arizona
in Tempe, the University of Southwestern Louisiana in New Iberia, and New
Mexico State University (NMSU) in Alamogordo. In 1993, NMSU's chimpanzee
colony passed into the hands of the Coulston Foundation, a facility that now
cages more than 500 chimpanzees. Coulston owner, Frederick Coulston, refers
to himself as the "father of toxicology" and promotes the use of other-than-
human primates in archaic, painful toxicology tests. He refers to chimpanzees
as "vicious, aggressive animals" and, in an interview with The Boston Globe,
admitted to spraying chemicals into the open eyes of monkeys at Coulston.(3)
Coulston gets most of its funding from NIH.

The Chimpanzee Management Plan (CMP) also established chimpanzee-related
research bases at Yerkes and the University of Texas, as well as at Texas A&M
in College Station and at the University of Pittsburgh. The International Species
Inventory System monitors the status of all the captive chimps.

The CMP costs $1.5 million a year just to maintain the chimps and many
millions more to staff and operate. The initial budget request for CMP-related
grants was rejected by Congress in 1986. CMP programs are now being funded
by NIH with $4.5 million taken from the existing AIDS research budget.

Current CMP guidelines do not prohibit any potentially painful or psychologic-
ally damaging experiment from being performed on chimpanzees, nor do they
establish minimum housing standards. The plan has no provision for retiring old
or "worn out" chimps, nor does it require that infant chimps be raised by their

Two-thirds of the chimps raised under the CMP are released to research
projects. The rest are used for breeding.

Organ Transplants
The National Institutes of Health is now considering giving $3.3 million to
Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York to breed chimps who would be
killed to provide hearts and other organs for human transplants. Each trans-
planted chimp heart would be used only until a human heart became available.
No chimp-to-human heart transplant has yet been successful.

1.Kelley, Tina, "Talking to the Animals," The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 22, 1995.
2.Ibid. 3.Allen, Scott, "Rescuers Try to Acquire 140 Air Force Chimps,"
The Boston Globe.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals- 501 Front Street - Norfolk, VA.
23510 - 757-622-PETA (7382)


Go on to Environmental Ramifications of Fur
Return to 20 January 1999 Issue
Return to Newsletters

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Home Page




Your comments and inquiries are welcome

This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting

Since date.gif (991 bytes)