I was going to just post three photos of three amazing chimpanzees today (see photos below) with short captions, but I have been thinking about this CNN article all day. When I was looking at the photos, I thought even more about it.
The article, titled, “Chimps still stuck in research labs despite promise of retirement” is about the pronouncement the NIH made in June 2013 that they were going to retire all but 50 of the chimpanzees they owned to sanctuary. So far? Six have been retired and, according to the article, 24 have died.
It’s that last fact that really gets to me. Twenty four chimpanzees, who (unbeknownst to them) were potentially granted freedom from biomedical testing, died before they could experience a sanctuary life.
As things are right now, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest could not take in retired NIH chimpanzees – Chimp Haven, a wonderful sanctuary in Louisiana, is the only sanctuary that has a contract with the government to retire NIH owned chimpanzees and therefore also the only sanctuary that receives federal funding.
But we know there are also over 400 chimpanzees who are privately “funded” by biomedical research institutions. They too deserve to know a life in a TRUE sanctuary, and they too are dying before they have that opportunity.
The NIH announcement a year and a half ago seemed to signal the beginning of the end of the use of chimpanzees in biomedical testing in the United States, but this means nothing to those individual chimpanzees who will spend the next however many days, months, or years waiting, only to die in a laboratory – never knowing there was an alternative life waiting for them.
I’m not going to pretend that I have the immediate solution to this problem. I know that many people are working on it, and it’s going to require a lot of trust, cooperation, and, especially, money. But, when I look into the eyes of the chimpanzees at CSNW who have known six and half years of a quality sanctuary life, it hurts to think of the chimpanzees out there waiting for the same chance.
We must maintain hope, however. And CSNW must work towards a future that includes retiring more chimpanzees at our sanctuary, whether from biomedical research or the pet and entertainment industries.
Their only hope lies with all of us.