For nearly a hundred years, U.S. laboratories and testing facilities have used chimpanzees to test new vaccines and medical procedures. When they aren’t being exposed to vigorous and painful testing, the chimps spend the majority of their time, and even lives, isolated in captivity.
Chimpanzees, our closest living genetic relatives, are social beings that build lasting relationship bonds and often exhibit emotions such as compassion, love and affection. Unfortunately, captive laboratory chimpanzees are deprived of their needs to socialize, play and learn from each other and their natural environment.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine declared in a report that “most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary”. This conclusion was later reaffirmed in a 2013 NIH report, which also confirmed that current experimentation on chimpanzees is unnecessary and that “research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases.”
NIH therefore recommended that funding for most federally supported experiments on chimpanzees be cut and that “the majority of NIH-owned chimpanzees should be designated for retirement and transferred to the federal sanctuary system.”
Because of this achievement and other current developments, such as laboratory chimps joining their wild counterparts on the official endangered list, hundreds of laboratory chimps have been retired from testing. This has resulted in hundreds of chimps in need of a new permanent home.
Thankfully, the Humane Society of the United States has stepped in to help find these chimps a home where they can happily spend the rest of the lives. Chimp Haven, was primarily created to “provide an appropriate and humane environment for chimpanzees to retire.” Based in Keithville, Louisiana, the sanctuary sits on 200 acres of prime forested land, and has created new beginnings for almost 300 chimpanzees.
At the sanctuary, which has been made to replicate the chimpanzees natural environment, the retired chimps are able to socialize, play, explore and freely interact with their expansive environment. Unfortunately, as these chimps have spent most of their lives in captivity they never be released into the wild; however, the facilities at Chimp Haven allows the chimps to learn what it means to be a chimpanzee.
“We believe that these chimpanzees, who have given so much to human kind, that it’s only fitting that we give back to them and let them enjoy their retirement years in as close to a natural habitat that we can possibly create for them,” said Cathy Spraetz, president at Chimp Haven.
In the video below, a group of captive chimps enter the sanctuary for the first time. This moment is the first time some of them have seen the sky, wide open space, and even another chimpanzee without the restriction of bars. As each of them enters the sanctuary, they look around in wonder and awe. To watch this extraordinary moment and find out more about the incredible work the Chimp Haven and the Humane Society do, take a look at the video below.
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