Primarily Primates will fight trustee’s recommendation that Ohio State University chimps should be sent to Chimp Haven
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:
SAN ANTONIO–Primarily Primates president Wally Swett on
August 17, 2006 told news media that the sanctuary will fight the
recommendation of court-appointed trustee Charles Jackson III that
seven chimpanzees formerly used by Ohio State University researcer
Sally Boysen should be transferred to Chimp Haven, of Shreveport,
“We’ll fight to the death to keep them from being moved,
especially to Chimp Haven,” Swett told Mike Lafferty of the Columbus
Both the American Sanctuary Association and the Association
of Sanctuaries are highly critical of Chimp Haven, which houses
retired chimps for the National Institutes of Health, under a
contract which allows NIH to recall the chimps for lab use. Though
none have actually been recalled, merely allowing the possibility
contravenes the ASA and TAOS accreditation requirements.
Ohio State University reportedly considered Chimp Haven
before sending the chimps to Primarily Primates in March 2006. OSU
paid Primarily Primates $324,000 to build the chimps’ permanent
housing and fund their care.
Bexar County District Court Judge Andrew Mireles appointed
Jackson to represent the chimps’ welfare after PETA and two former
OSU chimp caretakers sued Primarily Primates on the chimps’ behalf.
PETA and Primarily Primates have frequently conflicted for
more than 15 years, beginning when Swett was openly critical of how
PETA handed the aftermath of the 1981 “Silver Springs monkeys” case.
Monkeys rescued from a Silver Spring research lab eventually died or
were euthanized in NIH custody while PETA pursued a decade of
litigation that Swett believes kept the monkeys from being released
to Primarily Primates or other sanctuaries.
Ex-OSU chimp Kermit, 35, died on arrival at Primarily
Primates, which then had 81 chimps. A second ex-OSU chimp, Bobby,
16, died seven weeks later. Necropsies found that both died from
pre-existing heart conditions.
Primarily Primates came under intensive activist criticism after
three more chimps, received from other institutions, died or were
euthanized during the next several months. Responded Southwest
Foundation for Biomedical Research veterinarian Larry Cummins,
“We’re sending them up there to die. It’s an old folks’ home.”
“A pre-existing heart condition is a common catchphrase,”
objected April Truit, founder of the Primate Rescue Center in
However, heart disease is in fact the leading cause of death among
captive great apes, and has become of particular concern to
zookeepers because recent deaths of silverback gorillas have
significantly narrowed the captive gene pool.
“Adult western lowland gorillas in captivity are dying of an
unexplained heart condition called fibrosing cardiomyopathy, which
turns healthy heart muscle into fibrous bands unable to pump blood.
The condition is similar to a human form of heart disease,” freelance
Cheryl Lyn Dubas reported on August 21, 2006, in the Washington
Post. “Veterinarians Tom Meehan of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago
and Linda Lowenstine of the University of California at Davis
calculate that 41% of deaths of captive gorillas–and 70% of deaths
of males older than 30–are the result of heart disease, primarily
“The toll includes Mopie, at the National Zoo on July 3;
Kuja, at the National Zoo on July 1; Pogo, at the San Francisco
Zoo on May 24; Tumai, at the Memphis Zoo on May 18; Akbar, at the
Toledo Zoo on December 6, 2005; Sam, at the Knoxville Zoo on
November 17, 2000; and Michael, at the Gorilla Foundation in
California, on April 19, 2000,” Dubas recounted.
“The thing that has us stumped,” Lowenstine told Dubas, “is
that it doesn’t appear to be related to coronary artery disease or
Meehan and Wake Forest University primatologist Tom Clarkson, DVM,
speculated that the disease might be of bacterial or viral origin.
It has not been detected in the wild, but almost no health research
has been done on wild gorillas.