Sunday, 25 September 2016

Mass chimpanzee transfer begins in effort to protect endangered species

Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia will house 200-plus chimpanzees after they were declared endangered, effectively ending experimentation on the animals

Friday 9 September 201618.21 BSTLast modified on Friday 9 September 201621.21 BST

More than 200 chimpanzees are being transferred to a new sanctuary in Georgia, as the US winds down the controversial practice of using chimps for scientific research.

On Thursday, nine chimps – Jennifer, Gracie, Genesis, Buttercup, Charisse, Emma, Gertrude, Latricia and Samira – arrived at the Project Chimps sanctuary near Blue Ridge, a small town in northern Georgia.

A total of 220 chimps previously housed at the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center will move to Project Chimps. The center agreed to transfer the chimps, which were used for biomedical research, in 2014.

The move is the largest such transfer since the apes were declared endangered by the US government last year, effectively ending experimentation upon the animals. In November, the National Institutes of Health said there was “no further justification” for chimpanzee medical research and that it would retire its own test animals.

The move has been celebrated by animal welfare groups. Chimps were used in experiments due to their similarity to humans, sharing 98% of the same genes.

“There has been a watershed moment where the public, the scientific community and the government were aligned that this research wasn’t to be done any more,” said Sarah Baeckler Davis, chief executive of Project Chimps.

“The arrival of the chimps was an overwhelming moment for a lot of us, we have been working on this for a long time. There were tears. There’s a lot of logistics in moving nine chimps 600 miles.”

Project Chimps is a 236-acre facility previously envisioned as a gorilla sanctuary. It has capacity for 80 chimps but is in the process of expanding via individual donations and help from groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). It costs about $20,000 a year to keep a single chimp.

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