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They Have Suffered Too Long: Why PCRM Is Working to Halt the Alamogordo Chimpanzee Transfer

They Have Suffered Too Long: Why PCRM Is Working to Halt the Alamogordo Chimpanzee Transfer

Owen was caught in the wild in Africa in 1970. After being taken from his mother as an infant, he was transported to the United States where he would face a cruel future.

Owen—now 44 years old—has been used in hepatitis and HIV experiments and has been subjected to more than 50 biopsies of his liver, lymph nodes, and bones. During one biopsy, a needle broke off in Owen’s bone, where it remains to this day.

Owen has a heart murmur and cardiomyopathy, a serious heart disease that puts him at risk for sudden cardiac death. Since 2001, Owen has lived at Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico, where he is safe from experiments. But the National Institutes of Health plans to transport him 600 miles to return him to invasive experiments this year.

A Deadly Plan
If the federal government’s plan moves forward, Owen and 185 other chimpanzees will be shipped to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas. The facility is controversial, to say the least. Since July 2006, it has violated the federal Animal Welfare Act more than 30 times, and its researchers recently conducted an autopsy on a baboon who was still alive.

There is tremendous local support for keeping the chimpanzees in Alamogordo, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been especially vocal on their behalf. The Alamogordo chimpanzees have been exposed to diseases and subjected to numerous harmful procedures. Most are now elderly and suffer from serious health problems resulting from their use in experiments.

Injected with “Angel Dust”
Flo, the oldest of the group, is 53 years old. She was purchased from the Overton Park Zoo in Memphis, Tenn., on July 30, 1972, when she was 14 years old, and was then shipped to New Mexico where she was used in a range of experiments for the next two decades.

Flo has been chemically immobilized at least 115 times. Usually, that meant being shot with a sedative-loaded dart from a firearm, which caused her to collapse, sometimes resulting in injuries. In her early years in New Mexico, Flo was injected with phencyclidine (“angel dust”). On several occasions, Flo has suffered from convulsions or seizures during or after anesthesia.

Flo’s medical records indicate that she is at risk of dying under anesthesia due to chronic weight loss, anemia, and cardiac arrhythmias. Veterinarian Henry Melvyn Richardson, D.V.M., reviewed Flo’s medical records. He wrote, “I recommend if at all possible that Flo remain where she is and be allowed to live out her few remaining years in some peace. I fear she cannot survive transport and integration into another laboratory.”

Pearl was purchased from Primate Imports NY in August 1974 when she was 3 years old. For the next 25 years, she was used in hepatitis C and gonorrhea experiments and in forced breeding. Pearl gave birth to at least nine babies, including one set of twins. Almost all of her babies were taken away immediately after their births.

Pearl is hepatitis C positive, has type 2 diabetes, and is anemic. Dr. Richardson reviewed Pearl’s medical history and concluded that she should not be moved because of the risk to her health.

At Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death
Rudy is a 28-year-old male chimpanzee with droopy eyes and lips and a freckled nose. For much of his life, he has been caged alone.

Rudy was born in captivity on April 5, 1982. For the following two decades, he was used in numerous hepatitis and other experiments. During this time, Rudy demonstrated continual signs of behavioral stress.

In 1998, when Rudy was 16, he was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia, followed by heart failure five years later. In 2006, Rudy’s diagnosis was listed as “end-stage cardiomyopathy.”

Heart disease is the most common cause of death among captive chimpanzees. According to Dr. Richardson and other experts, Rudy and many of the other Alamogordo chimpanzees likely would have already died if they had not been retired from experimentation. 


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