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Many have followed the plight of 186 chimpanzees on-hold from experimentation at Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) wanted to transfer them to a Texas research laboratory to resume invasive procedures, But on January 4, 2010, the Alamogordo chimps were granted a reprieve when NIH decided to freeze their transfer to Southwest Primate Research Center in Texas.

The chimps, some so old they’ve spent nearly their entire lives in labs, will stay in New Mexico pending an Institute of Medicine (IOM) evaluation to determine if they’re still needed for research. The assessment could take up to two years.

Thank NIH for making the ethical decision to spare the Alamogordo chimps from relocation to a Texas lab. Politely urge IOM to make their retirement permanent.

Letter to
Administrative Assistant, IOM Board on Health Sciences Policy Donna Randall
National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM)
IOM President Dr. Harvey Fineberg
and 4 others
Executive Officer, IOM Judith A. Salerno
Chair, IOM Board on Health Sciences Policy James Childress
Board Director, IOM Board on Health Sciences Policy Andrew Pope
Director, NIH Dr. Francis Collins
I applaud the National Institutes of Health for making the ethical decision to halt transfer of 186 chimpanzees from Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico to Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas. I understand the chimps will reside in New Mexico, “pending an Institute of Medicine (IOM) in-depth analysis to reassess the scientific need for the continued use of chimpanzees to accelerate biomedical discoveries. During this time, the Alamogordo chimpanzees will not be used in invasive research.”

This is promising news, given that 1300 or so chimps are already warehoused in labs to undergo crash tests, radiation, heart transplants, drug experiments, and induced syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, cancer... The IOM may require two years to decide whether the Alamogordo chimps ultimately return to research or retire to sanctuary. I strongly urge the latter and hope that you give these animals a final reprieve.

The elder chimps spent most of their lives in seclusion, rotated from one invasive procedure to the next. “Breeders” watched their babies taken soon after birth. This is a very sad life for any animal. I am particularly upset to learn that biomedical researchers gripe about the financial liability of “surplus chimps” due to “over-breeding.” Even when chimps fail to produce clinical symptoms or data relevant to human diseases such as HIV/AIDS, they remain in labs — unable to form social bonds, parent, or express their natural joy, grief, humor, bravery and intelligence.

As biotechnology rapidly transforms — with breakthroughs in “high throughput” in vitro systems, bioinformatics, genomics, metabonomics...and so many more animal-free technologies — officials will need to retire animals from government subsidized projects. I am very optimistic about the NIH moratorium for Alamogordo chimpanzees and urge you to extend it into permanent retirement.

Thank you,

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