NIH Moves to Retire Most Government-Owned Chimpanzees

The Physicians Committee

NIH Moves to Retire Most Government-Owned Chimpanzees

On June 26, the National Institutes of Health announced its decision to retire most government-owned chimpanzees. The Physicians Committee and its members and supporters played an important role in this landmark decision.

NIH directior Francis Collins, M.D., announced that he has accepted 27 of the 28 implementation recommendations from the Council of Councils Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research, which earlier this year recommended that nearly all federally owned chimpanzees in laboratories be retired to sanctuaries. Its recommendations were based on a landmark Institute of Medicine report that could not find a single area of disease research for which the animals are essential.

Now, nearly all current NIH-funded chimpanzee experiments will be phased out, NIH-supported privately owned chimpanzees will be subject to the same funding limitations, and the barrier to new invasive research will be very high.

“As a physician who was invited to testify before the IOM panel examining the usefulness of chimpanzee experimentation, I’m elated that chimpanzees who have spent decades in research facilities will soon be sent to a sanctuary,” says John Pippin, M.D., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “Scarce government research funding should now be redirected to human-relevant methods including organ-on-a-chip technology, stem cells, and population studies.”

NIH will keep a colony of up to 50 chimpanzees for possible future research use, but with three important provisos: (1) The number will be determined by the number and nature of new research protocols; (2) These chimpanzees will not be bred; (3) The need for this colony will be reviewed in five years.

“Dr. Collins needs to abandon this futile plan and immediately retire all government-owned chimpanzees who may be facing a lifetime of captivity,” says Dr. Pippin.

NIH has already released more than 200 chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, a sanctuary. But New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana and other laboratories are unlikely to retire their chimpanzees until NIH has completely ended its chimpanzee experiments.

Earlier in June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is proposing to classify captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

To ask Dr. Collins to retire all government-owned chimpanzees, visit


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