Alamogordo Chimpanzees Will Stay Put for Now

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Alamogordo Chimpanzees Will Stay Put for Now

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) 

The Alamogordo chimpanzees will have a happy new year. They won’t be moved to a Texas facility where they would have been subjected to invasive experiments.

On New Year’s Eve, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico made the announcement that the transfer is being put on hold while the Institute of Medicine conducts a review of the scientific merits of using chimpanzees in experimentation. This extends PCRM’s window of time for at least 18 months to find a way to keep the chimpanzees permanently out of the laboratory.

Over the past year, PCRM has worked alongside Gov. Richardson and Animal Protection of New Mexico to urge the federal government to keep the 186 chimpanzees permanently out of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.

At a briefing in Washington in November, the governor joined representatives from PCRM in requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture use its authority to stop the transfer of retired chimpanzees living at the nonresearch Alamogordo Primate Facility in Alamogordo, N.M.

“The federal government has made a step in the right direction by allowing the Alamogordo chimpanzees to stay in New Mexico,” says PCRM director of research policy Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H. “Hopefully, this decision will have favorable implications for all chimpanzees who are currently used in medical experiments in the United States.”

The Alamorgordo chimpanzees have not been used in experiments for about a decade and many suffer from chronic conditions related to old age, captivity, and past use in experiments, including severe heart disease, liver disease, viral infections, and diabetes.

In September, PCRM also filed a federal complaint with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, seeking to stop the planned transfer of the federally owned chimpanzees. The legal petition invoked the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, enacted to ensure that chimpanzees used in experiments for many years are retired to sanctuaries. Twelve authorities, including Dr. Ferdowsian and PCRM senior medical and research adviser John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., co-signed the petition.

The doctors and scientists argued in their complaint, “Chimpanzees have repeatedly proved to be poor models for human disease research, including for HIV—a disease for which repeated failures have led most researchers to stop using chimpanzees—as well as for hepatitis, malaria, and cancer. Therefore, these animals are not necessary for this type of research. Superior alternatives are available and researchers continue to develop new, cutting-edge models for human disease research.”

High-profile opposition to the chimpanzee experiments also includes Jane Goodall and True Blood star Kristin Bauer, as well as scientists, doctors, and countless concerned citizens, including thousands of PCRM members.