Seven chimps safe, maybe more
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:
STIRLING FOREST, N.Y.––Up in the air for
more than a year, the fate of seven chimpanzees formerly
used in biomedical research by the U.S. Army was apparently
settled on the eve of a September 15 deadline when former
New York University primatologist James Mahoney reportedly
flew to California and personally approved Wildlife
Waystation as their retirement destination.
The chimps were mustered out of the Army into the
custody of the NYU-affiliated Laboratory for Experimental
Medicine and Surgery In Primates, which subcontracted with
the Buckshire Corporation, of Perkasie, Pennsylvania, for
their temporary care while permanent facilities were built in
Texas. Both LEMPSIP founder Jan Moor-Jankowski and
Mahoney were close to retirement, and anticipated retiring
their entire 225-member chimp colony, if possible.
It never happened. In August 1994, MoorJankowski
and Mahoney resigned from the NYU Institutional
Animal Care and Use Committee in protest over what MoorJankowski
called “highly reprehensible” conduct that “must
be stopped” on the part of fellow NYU primate researcher
Robert Wood, who since 1986 had conducted controversial
drug addiction experiments on chimps and squirrel monkeys
at a separate facility.
After the resignations became public, NYU school
of medicine associate dean David Scotch froze $550,000 in
funding for improvements to the LEMSIP facilities, including
funding for the proposed Texas chimp retirement center,
and decertified LEMSIP as an NYU research site. MoorJankowski
blames those actions for causing LEMSIP, long
considered a model of quality primate care, to be cited for
approximately 100 Animal Welfare Act violations in a
February 1995 inspection. As Moor-Jankowski asked the
USDA to investigate whether he had been the victim of illegal
retaliation for whistle-blowing, NYU president Jay Oliva terminated
Moor-Jankowski’s contract on August 9, and sold
the LEMSIP chimps to the Coulston Foundation. The foundation
is a major supplier of chimps to research, run by
Frederick Coulston, 81, a longtime foe of Moor-Jankowski
in a variety of forums, whose management of about 140 former
NASA chimps at Holloman Air Force Base in New
Mexico has caught flak over the deaths of at least seven in the
past three years from various forms of neglect.
Moor-Jankowski reportedly plans to sue NYU. His
effort to halt Wood’s experiments succeeded, meanwhile,
when Wood on August 31 took an “indefinite leave of
absence.” His Stirling Forest laboratory was closed last
spring. A National Institutes of Health report issued August
17 cleared him of wrongdoing, but USDA charges including
378 alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act remain
pending, for which the NYU Medical Center could be fined
as much as $945,000.
While Coulston now controls more than 1,500
chimps, half the total in the research community, he did not
get the six ex-Army chimps who had long since been moved
to Buckshire, and didn’t gain title to another former Army
chimp who remained at LEMSIP. Because the funds for the
ex-Army chimps’ care were frozen, those at Buckshire were
kept in admittedly undersized transportation cages for want of
anywhere else to keep them, and were throughout the past
year the focus of letter-writing campaigns led by In Defense
of Animals and PETA.
When negotiations over the fate of those chimps
seemed stalled, Primarily Primates on August 29 submitted a
retirement proposal that would have added the six to its current
20-member chimp colony after expansion of facilities.
Buckshire executive Sharon Hirsch told ANIMAL PEOPLE
that the proposal met with her approval, but that the deal
Mahoney already had in the works took precedence.
Meanwhile, Swett said, his effort to raise funds to take in the
six chimps attracted interest from Nanci Alexander of the
Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, whose husband Leslie
owns the Houston Rockets pro basketball team.
More to be retired?
That suggested the possibility of a further deal,
since as Hirsch put it, Buckshire is too small to compete with
Coulston in the declining laboratory research primate marketplace
and is “probably headed toward aggressive dissolvement.”
PETA declined the chance to buy the whole
Buckshire colony, but Hirsch and company president Glen
Wrigley said they were nonetheless willing to entertain deals
involving other animal protection groups. As A N I M A L
PEOPLE went to press, Primarily Primates president Wally
Swett said, he, Alexander, and Hirsch were trying to work
out a three-cornered arrangement whereby Primarily Primates
would house another seven or eight chimps now owned by
Buckshire, in a retirement plan sponsored by the Rockets.
The chimps in question would be animals classified as “nonbreeders,”
who if sold to a laboratory would probably be
used in “corrosive” research. In laboratory parlance, “corrosive”
means research that would permanently impair or kill
the animals, usually involving incurable diseases.
Among the chimps Swett hopes to acquire from
Buckshire would be the enigmatic Oliver, who surfaced in
traveling shows 20 years ago, billed as “The Missing Link.”
Passing from owner to owner, enduring a broken jaw and the
removal of his canine teeth along the way, Oliver differs
from other chimps in always walking on his hind legs, having
shorter hair on the top of his head, having a lighter build,
and having finer facial features. He also has a much gentler
temper than most adult male chimps.
“I think he’s just a very nice old chimp,” says
Hirsch. “He sleeps a lot, lying back with his feet up. I had a
cup of coffee in my hand when Oliver first arrived here. He
begged for the coffee, I gave it to him, he drank it, and
we’ve been great friends ever since. He loves to have his
Oliver might actually be a bonobo, or so-called
pygmy chimp. Native to a limited region of central Africa,
surviving in marginal numbers, bonobos differ from other
chimps in the same physical aspects as Oliver; are vegetarians,
unlike other chimps; and unlike other chimps have a
matriarchal society, in which fighting as a means of maintaining
social order is largely displaced by sexual interaction.
Genetic research has discovered that humans are even more
closely related to bonobos than to other chimps. In addition,
some investigators believe bonobos may be the closest living
relatives of A. Afrensis, the earliest known progenitor of both
chimps and humans, both of whom may have branched off
from the genetic line that became bonobos.