House Speaker Gingrich favors research chimp retirement

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1998:

SAN ANTONIO––Eight adult
chimpanzees and two infants, all nearly lifelong
residents of laboratory cages, scrambled
into new quarters at Primarily Primates on
May 7––some experiencing direct sunshine
and outdoor habitat for the very first time.
“This enclosure is one of the largest
ever built for the retirement of chimps used in
research,” said Primarily Primates president
Wally Swett. “The toddlers played chase and
tickle games. The males and females are
resolving their dominance hierarchy. They are
a troop for the first time in their lives, learning
how to be chimpanzees.”
The 10 chimps arrived at Primarily
Primates from the now closed Laboratory for
Experimental Medicine and Surgery In
Primates at New York University.

“The last 17 chimps owned by LEMSIP,
housed at another research facility, still
have a chance to be retired to Primarily
Primates,” Swett said. “To save them, a
donor has offered us a $50,000 challenge
grant. We get the $50,000 if we can raise
$50,000,” to build housing for the additional
chimps and arrange for their transport.
As of May 11, Primarily Primates
had raised $22,000 of the matching funds.
Such efforts drew strong endorsement
on May 5 from Speaker of the House
Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia). “If we can find a
way to develop a series of sanctuaries to allow
chimpanzees who are no longer being used in
research to have a decent retirement, we think
that is exactly the right thing to do,” Gingrich
told reporters after a meeting with primatologist
Jane Goodall.
Gingrich and Representative Jim
Greenwood (R-Pennsyvlania) are reportedly
drafting legislation to expedite the retirement
of federally owned chimpanzees––especially
those bred or purchased for use in AIDS
research, who are now deemed surplus
because chimps have proved highly resistant to
HIV, the human form of AIDS.
Researchers have been generally
eager to divest themselves of the cost and controversy
associated with keeping purportedly
unproductive chimp colonies.
But that outlook may change abruptly.
The Coulston Foundation, owners and/or
keepers under contract of more than 600
chimps, on April 20 announced that three
chimps had died of HIV this spring. Two were
infected by Coulston researchers; the other
was infected at NYU.
Of hundreds of chimps who were
inoculated with HIV during the mid-1980s,
none actually died of the disease before 1996,
when a Yerkes Regional Primate Research
Center chimp named Jerome became the first
known victim.
Coulston chief of virology and
immunology Ali Javadian said the recent
deaths made chimps “most valuable and suitable
for AIDS vaccine and drug development.”
But National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases researcher Malcolm
Martin was skeptical. “They are the only animal
other than humans whom HIV will
infect,” Martin told Richard Benke of
Associated Press. However, Benke added,
“This time frame, while possibly mimmicking
what goes on in humans, is just too long for a
useful animal model. If it takes 10 years for
something to happen, you might as well go
blindly and do your research with people.”
Besides having custody of hundreds
of chimps who are in low biomedical research
demand, Coulston is facing 24 counts of
alleged Animal Welfare Act violations issued
by the USDA Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service on March 26.
Coulston was charged with improperly
handling three sedated chimps, failing to
provide adequate veterinary care, failing to
“establish and maintain programs of adequate
veterinary care, including procedures and
equipment for emergency care,” undertaking
“an extensive surgical procedure under inappropriate
conditions,” and numerous other
failures to meet AWA requirements.
Among the chimps in Coulston care
are a 143-member colony belonging to NASA,
housed for more then 40 years at Holloman
Air Force Base in southern New Mexico.
They reportedly include 33 survivors from
among the original 65 “space chimps” who
were captured in Africa during the 1950s, and
110 of their descendants. None of the surviving
chimps actually flew in space.
The U.S. Air Force is to decide by
June 3 whether to transfer ownership of the
chimps to Coulston, or accept a bid from the
Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, formed
by the Doris Day Animal League. The CCCC
has reportedly already raised more than $1
million of the estimated $4 million to $10 million
cost of obtaining and retiring the chimps.
Not waiting for the USAF verdict,
the CCCC and DDAL in March charged that
the bidding procedure is rigged to favor
Coulston, objecting in a petition to Secretary
of Defense William S. Cohen that key medical
and behavioral particulars about individual
chimps have been improperly withheld. The
petition was supported by a letter signed by 35
members of Congress.
Wisconsin Regional Primate
Research Center interim director Joe Kemnitz
on May 6 announced that 54 stumptailed
macaques kept at the Vilas Zoo in Madison
since 1963 will be transfered to retirement at
Wild Animal Orphanage in June. Founded by
Carol Azvestas, Wild Animal Orphanage is
located at the northern edge of San Antonio,
near both Primarily Primates and Wildlife
Rescue and Rehabilitation.
ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in
April that according to Shirley McGreal of the
International Primate Protection League, representatives
of both WRR and PETA had
opposed activist efforts to transfer 143 rhesus
macaques from the Wisconsin Regional
Primate Research Center to Wild Animal
Orphanage, telling media the macaques would
be “better off dead.” The rhesuses instead
were transferred to the Louisiana Regional
Primate Research Center, managed by Tulane
On May 6, however, almost simultaneous
with the announcement that Wild
Animal Orphanage would get the stumptails,
WRR founder Lynn Cuny faxed to ANIMAL
P E O P L E, “Wildlife Rescue and
Rehabilitation does not feel that way, nor did
we make such a statement.”
McGreal agreed that although “this
was PETA’s position, and [Animal Protection
Institute representative] Don Barnes was violently
against the move to Asvestas,” this was
not the position of Cuny and WRR.
So far, sanctuaries have offered
most of the retirement options for surplus
research chimps. On March 31, however,
former University of Wisconsin primate
researcher Arnold Chamove proposed establishing
outdoor colonies of ex-lab primates
near Palmerston, New Zealand, under supervision
of Massey University, his present
employer. Like the Southwest Texas Primate
Observatory, which has accommodated a
colony of Japanese macaques since 1972, the
outdoor facility would permit researchers to
study the animals as they live a more-or-less
wild existence.
“Currently,” Chamove said, “if
people want to study monkeys they either go
to Africa or to a zoo. But a zoo deosn’t provide
anything like a natural environment, and
many people want some preliminary experience
before they head to the heart of Africa.
Getting monkeys is no problem,” he continued.
“Many research facilities and zoos
around the world would even pay to get rid of
the monkeys they now have in individual
cages, because they have become too expensive
to maintain.”
The Chamove proposal met immediate
opposition from Peter Van Essen, chair of
the Manawatu branch of the Forest & Bird
Society, and Garry Murfitt, a member of the
Massey University animal ethics committee.
The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration on April 27 cited the Yerkes
Regional Primary Research Center for 10
workplace safety code violations and proposed
a fine of $105,300 in settlement of the charges,
which originated from the December 10 death
of Yerkes technician Elizabeth R. Griffin, 22,
two months after a monkey splashed bodily
fluids containing the deadly herpes B virus
into her eye. Yerkes is expected to appeal the
OSHA verdict.

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