Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If we give up reality, we give up the chimps

UPDATE, October 12, 2012: There is some hope on the horizon for New Iberia's 110 chimpanzees. "Given the urgency of the 110 chimps, things are moving along in regards to these issues with discussions among different stakeholders now," a representative from one of the organizations closest to the situation tells me.  It's not transparent, and it's only a start... but it IS a promising development. A resolution that brings more of those chimps into U.S. sanctuaries may contain a way forward for the other federal chimpanzees.

UPDATE, October 18, 2012: From NBC News, Goodall praises NIH decision...: "NIH is considering all options to try and move as many of the 110 chimpanzees to the Federal Sanctuary within the constraints of this timeframe and to eventually move all 110 chimpanzees to the Federal Sanctuary.  In the meantime, NIH must continue to care for the chimpanzees and Texas Biomedical can offer high-quality care until the Federal Sanctuary has the capacity to take all 110," according to an NIH spokesperson.

UPDATE, October 23, 2012: NIH issued its annual report on where federally supported chimps are, and what it costs to support them at the various research facilities and at Chimp Haven (the federal sanctuary.)

Original post ----- It’s so easy to sign a petition. It’s neat to tweet, and Facebook sharing warms the soul. Providing all the housing and care for retired research chimpanzees, however, requires us to go further than that. It demands that we deal with hard facts. I tried to do that, explaining federal regulations and contracts in Build it and they will come, but some people in the ape community find legal issues tiresome and strangely irrelevant to their agendas.

Reality is often inconvenient. The reality for the future of retired chimps is worse than inconvenient. If we don’t get off our arses and unite in a common search for solutions, they will stay in accredited institutions: the labs and primate research centers we are fighting to get them out of.

Under current federal regulations, at least as they are interpreted now, there is only one sanctuary able to provide refuge for retired federal research chimpanzees, and that organization (Chimp Haven) has facilities for less than 150 chimps. We have a thousand chimpanzees who will (hopefully!) need a new sanctuary home. We have to look at the problem straight on if anyone is going to solve this mess.

I’ve never met the man, but I admire Bob Ingersoll. I love people who have a passion for non-human primates. I respect people who throw caution to the wind and dare to tackle the big problems. Last night, he posted a long comment on my blogpost, More chimpanzees to enter 40-year-old language research program. I recommend you read it. His concern is two-fold: some of the not-for-profit groups have chimpanzees groups that are too small for optimal welfare; and we do not have enough accredited facilities built to handle the retired federal chimpanzees. This is what he suggested:
I would like to propose a strategy, a plan, that we all can get behind and make happen and one that could solve the captive chimp problem we now face currently here in the USA. What if CHCI [Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute] and CSNW [Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW] and FAUNA [Canada’s Fauna Foundation] all together proposed a unified effort to move all their chimps to Florida near the two World Class Chimp Facilities [Save the Chimps and Center for Great Apes] that are already up and running in central Florida? That proposal would not only include the chimps who currently reside at the three facilities mentioned. Let’s include the over 900 chimps that right now need a home in the master plan.

What if NEAVS [New England Anti-Vivisection Society] and PCRM [Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine] and HSUS [Humane Society of the United States] and all the other NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and groups and individuals got behind an effort like this? A unified effort to do the right thing and do it ASAP. What if we asked several members of Congress and other public officials, like Representative Kucinich for example, to help make this happen?

We have to start somewhere and what I am proposing is that we all get together and at least talk about what would be in the best interests of ALL the chimps who need a home. All 937, as NEAVS [New England Anti-Vivisection Society] has recently stated. I would love to be part of that plan. Wouldn’t you?

Bob Ingersoll, Project Nim
I think Bob’s idea has a lot of merit. I think we need to try. To start, I'd like to propose a one-day workshop, in Washington, D.C., following the release of the NIH working group's advice (due in January) on the size and placement of active and inactive chimpanzees. Here’s a draft agenda, to get the ball rolling...

Session on government programs

NIH working group: report on recommendations

NIH Chimpanzee Management Program: explanation of current Chimp Act regulations and contract status

Chimp Haven: briefing on their current status as the federal sanctuary and future challenges

Session on sanctuary solutions and challenges

North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance: solutions proposed by sanctuaries

Robert Ingersoll: historical perspective on chimp care challenges

Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance: the African sanctuary experience

Session on planning forward

PCRM: forming a united coalition

Humane Society of the U.S.: legislative perspective on practical options for amendments to Chimp Act, appropriations, and regulatory changes

ChimpCare: a review of scientific studies on appropriate sanctuary standards

Facilitated exercise to develop principles and goals for the way forward

Order of business: what is next? (At a minimum, the development of an ad hoc coalition, with public participation.)

Of course, when I imagine a strong, transparent, unified effort for the chimpanzees, with everyone welcome at the table, I may just be whistling Dixie. Maybe I’m the one not dealing in reality


  1. On a related note, are there any orangutans being used by the US entertainment industry?

    1. A couple of organizations still use orangutans in entertainment. Universal Studios tourist attractions in Orlando and Los Angeles still have performing orangutans in their Animal Actors live shows. And Doc Antle (of the fake "sanctuary" T.I.G.E.R.S.) uses orangutan Suriya in his various enterprises. (In one instance, Robitussin used Suriya in an ad until the public let them know that was unacceptable. They pulled it and used a computer generated image instead.)

    2. I just learned that Antle’s Suriya is his oldest of four young orangutans! (And he just bought his third chimp infant from breeder Connie Casey.) So he’s promoting them all now.

  2. Are there actually people breeding orangs for sale to pvt individuals in the US? I know Bobby Berosini got his from the Yerkes center but that was a long time ago

    1. Grazatt, I'm trying to find the answer to your question. One of the most atrocious transfers to private individuals involved the Gulf Breeze Zoo (in Fla.), which gave their 3-year-old orangutan "Indah" to Marcella Leone, co-owner of Lionshare Farm, a private "zoo" and horse center in Connecticut. As long as the U.S. lets unaccredited zoos dispose of their animals according to the whims of uneducated directors, individuals will have a source for endangered exotic animals.