LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The National Institutes of Health says it will relocate 110 of its chimpanzees from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center and to stop using the animals for biomedical testing.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/OiNJEi ) that the plan was announced Friday.
The move comes as NIH decides how best to implement recommendations that call for more stringent standards on biomedical research using chimpanzees, considered the closest relative to humans in the animal kingdom.
NIH in December suspended funding for all new research involving chimpanzees pending the development of new guidelines for research that are expected to limit the use of chimpanzees to studies in which other testing alternatives have been exhausted.
Amid the changes, the New Iberia Research Center has opted to not seek further funding to house to NIH-owned chimpanzees, the university announced.
The 110 NIH chimpanzees are about 30 percent of the total population of 350 chimpanzees at NIRC, according to figures from the university.
ULL spokesman Aaron Martin said the research center decided to reallocate staff and facilities.
NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles said it would take several months to move the chimpanzees because of the care required in transporting the animals.
Ten of the chimpanzees will retire to Chimp Haven, a chimpanzee sanctuary in north Louisiana, and the remaining 100 will be transferred to the Texas Biomedical Institute in San Antonio but will be permanently ineligible for further biomedical research, according to NIH.
The changes will leave NIH with a roster of 453 chimpanzees eligible for biomedical research, Myles said.
ULL's primate research center has done private and government medical research for more than 20 years.
The New Iberia center and primate testing facilities in general have come under fire in recent years from animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States.
That group applauded the decision to retire the 110 chimpanzees in New Iberia from biomedical research.
"NIH's announcement is a significant step forward in our goal toward ending invasive experiments on chimpanzees and facilitating the move of the current population of chimps in laboratories to reputable sanctuaries," Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com