The Last 1000 is a website dedicated to documenting the lives of the last chimpanzees left in research facilities in the U.S. and is authored by Dr. Lori Gruen, who is head of Wesleyan University’s Animal Studies Program.
“For almost 100 years, chimpanzees have been used in biomedical and behavioral research in this country, the last industrialized country to experiment on our next of kin. The end of using chimpanzees as nameless test subjects is near. Already hundreds of research chimpanzees have been retired. In tribute to all who have been forced to serve, here we look forward to the journey to sanctuary of the LAST 1000,” writes Gruen.
It is hard to tell whether to look at it as a wall of shame, considering what has been done to these amazing animals, or a wall of hope as the U.S. continues to take steps moving away from using chimpanzees in biomedical research and those who remain have their names marked off as they slowly make their way to sanctuaries where they can live out their days free from suffering, some enjoying the simple pleasure of feeling grass for the very first time.
Some are unknown due to a lack of transparency at some facilities, others are identified only by letters and numbers, while the rest have been listed by name.
“One of the ways to acknowledge the debt we owe these chimpanzees is to recognize them as individuals, not as nameless tools or a mass of “research chimpanzees,” writes Gruen.
Flo is one of the oldest chimpanzees in captivity. She was captured in the wild and has lived in a zoo in Tennessee, at the Coulston Foundation in New Mexico, then ended up at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in 2001 where she has been since. She had four children.
Ken was born in New Mexico and was shipped to three different facilities before being sent to Southwest National Primate Research Center in 2010. He is infected with hepatitis A and C and HIV.
Candy was born on February 20, 1989. For many years she worked in cognition research at the New Iberia Research Center but then was put into the biomedical research population. In January 2013, she arrived at her sanctuary home at Chimp Haven.
Some of the ones listed are descendants of those who were named on Gruen’s other site: The First 100, which lists the names of the chimps who were part of the first research colony that was established in 1930.
In 2000, Congress passed the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, which mandated the establishment of a sanctuary system to provide lifetime care for chimpanzees who are retired from the biomedical research industry.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine concluded that most research on chimps was unethical and unnecessary in biomedical and behavioral research, which was followed by the establishment of a group of experts to further debate the issue. They recommended retiring all but 50 chimpanzees.
At nearly the same time the last recommendation was made, the first 16 chimpanzees of 111 from the New Iberia Research Center arrived at Chimp Haven, a national sanctuary. 95 more will arrive in the coming months, bringing the total number of chimpanzees at Chimp Haven to 231. In December, the NIH announced it would move them all to a sanctuary, instead of sending 100 of them to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio after public outcry.
Last week fifty-two-year-olds Julius and Sandy, 46-year-old Phyllis and 44-year-old Jessica arrived at Chimp Haven and began exploring their new surroundings. Their new lives will involve being able to go outside whenever they want and make decisions about what they feel like doing.
“They light up, look up at the sky, look at us watching them,” said behaviorist Amy Fultz.
Concerns have been raised about funding for Chimp Haven because the cap on $30 million that was allocated for it will be hit this year. However, animal advocates are arguing that additional spending won’t be needed if Congress lets the NIH spend the money it used on research contracts on chimps’ retirement instead.
Hopefully, soon all the names on the Last 1000 will be highlighted green.
Photo credit: Thinkstock