It’s long been a controversial issue—testing on primates, specifically chimpanzees. But, last month, hundreds of chimps were released from the New Iberia Research Center and sent to live the rest of their lives in a sanctuary.
After years sometimes decades used as medical testing subjects, 110 chimpanzees are now leaving their cages behind for a more natural life. Home is now the Chimp Haven, a non-profit in Keithville, Louisiana. It took nearly $5 million in fundraising in order to secure enough indoor and outdoor space.
According to President and CEO of Chimp Haven, Cathy Willis Spraetz, it’s been a long time coming.
“It’s wonderful. It’s like a dream come true,” said Spraetz. “Although, there are many other chimpanzees out there that need a sanctuary to go to.”
The move to a sanctuary is in accordance with the federal Chimp Act and pushed by the National Institute of Health. They’ve ruled chimp testing is not as effective as once thought and in many instances, could be considered inhumane given the primates’ high level of intelligence.
“They are just not the best test subjects number one and number two, our technology has advanced to the point where they’re no longer necessary,” said Spraetz.
In 2005, Chimp Haven took in just two chimpanzees. Fast forward to this year, 212 are now living in a healthy, natural environment. “Our largest group is 25 who live together,” said Spaetz.
“They hunt together, forage together, climb trees and sleep together. So, those are experiences they don’t get in a laboratory setting.”