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Federal lawsuit filed over chimps still held at Holloman Air Force Base

Chimpanzee HAM, during preflight activity prior to the Mercury-Redstone 2 test flight in 1961. His name was an acronym for Holloman Aerospace Medical Center at Holloman Air Force Base, where several chimps were trained for flights and flight simulations that would pave the way for human astronauts to fly.

NASA

By NICOLE MAXWELL | Alamogordo Daily News, N.M. | Published: January 22, 2021

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Humane Society of the United States filed a federal lawsuit Jan. 14 against the National Institutes of Health about a group of chimpanzees residing on Holloman Air Force Base.

The suit alleges the National Institutes of Health violated federal law when 44 chimpanzees remained at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on the base in 2019 following a 2015 National Institutes of Health decision to end biomedical research on chimpanzees.

While at the facility, the chimps were used for biomedical research.

They were exposed to "various" microorganisms, per the NIH website, such as hepitus C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and used in stem cell research.

They were also used for research on the Zika virus.

“Every day that goes by is another day taken away from these chimpanzees, who have suffered enough," Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States said. "They deserve to spend the remainder of their lives in a proper sanctuary."

The suit alleged the National Institute of Health decision violated the federal Chimpanzee Health, Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act, or the CHIMP Act.

The 2015 decision ending biomedical research on chimpanzees ordered the chimpanzees to be moved to an approved sanctuary called Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana.

The CHIMP Act established the federal sanctuary system and mandates that all federally owned chimpanzees be retired to chimpanzee sanctuaries when the animals are no longer needed for research.

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Chimp Haven is a sanctuary in the national sanctuary system where many other chimpanzees from Alamogordo Primate Facility were sent since the decision.

In total, there were 292 chimpanzees at Chimp Haven as of the October 2020 Chimp Management Report.

"Due to advances in non-animal methods of research and testing, and changes in their legal status under the Endangered Species Act, chimpanzees have not been used in federally sponsored research since 2015," an Animal Protection of New Mexico press release states.

Some of the chimpanzees that remained at the Alamogordo Primate Facility have recently died leaving 37 chimpanzees still at the facility, although no research is being done on those remaining animals.

The remaining chimpanzees live in indoor/outdoor habitats called primadomes.

In 2019, the National Institutes of Health announced that the remaining chimpanzees would stay at the Alamogordo Primate Facility due to their age and infirmity making the trip to sanctuary difficult for those remaining chimpanzees.

nmaxwell@alamogordonews.com

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