Research chimps living in lab cages in the U.S. are at last going to do what retirees are meant to do: sit in the sun and bicker.
After refusing to do so for years, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will retire the last of its laboratory chimpanzees to sanctuaries.
Nature reported the news this week after obtaining an email sent by NIH director Francis Collins to the agency’s administrators. The email detailed that the 50 “reserve” chimps still in NIH’s care would be joining some of the 310 other chimps the agency retired in 2013. It also houses and supports other chimps that are not meant to be tested on, but will be retiring as well.
The push to retire the lab chimps comes after intense public outcry against the practice. Our understanding of chimp cognition, which is strikingly similar to human intelligence, has greatly fueled the effort. Studies have also shown that chimps have culture, use tools, and even understand and mourn death.
What’s more, the research has become downright unpopular and financially negligible. The remaining chimps had been kept in case of medical emergencies, though only one application for such research was received since 2013 — and it was later withdrawn.
Now, spots must be found for the soon-to-be retirees. One sanctuary that took many of the previously retired apes, Chimp Haven in Louisiana, has already offered spots for 25 chimps to live out their days in a sunny southern haze of lying around, eating, and arguing amongst themselves — not unlike most human retirees. Does this not just look like a bunch of old men popping their dentures in and out?