The United States remains one of the only two nations in the world that still uses chimpanzees for biomedical research purposes. Kept in laboratory cages, these animals are never given the chance to see the outside world, let alone touch it with their own hands. But that is (slowly) changing.
Recently a small group of federally owned laboratory chimpanzees were retired to the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, LA. The Humane Society posted this clip of some of those animals and their first foray into a natural habitat.
For the elderly chimps that were originally caught in the wild, it had been decades since they experienced life outside of a cage. And for the younger chimps that had been bred in captivity, this was their first time ever stepping onto soil or feeling the embrace of others in their group unobstructed by cage bars.
Chimp Haven's rescue program is part of a larger joint effort with The Humane Society to bring more than 100 newly retired chimpanzees into the sanctuary over the next 15 months.
Mercifully, the use of these endangered primates for biomedical research purposes is on the decline in the U.S.; the animals are no longer allowed to be bred in laboratories, and recently the Institute of Medicine published a report stating the need for chimpanzee-based research was decreasing as technological advances rendered it unnecessary.
The fight to end the practice in the U.S. may not be over, but it's at least moving in a very positive direction.
This is welcome news, especially for the 100 or so primates who will find themselves at Chimp Haven in the coming months, where they can resume a life that more closely resembles the one originally intended for them.
Chimp Haven's latest endeavor mirrors an even larger one created by a similar organization named Save the Chimps. That nonprofit effectively purchased an entire chimpanzee laboratory, eventually moving all of its former captives to a sprawling animal sanctuary in Florida. The organization reported that the primates who had initially shown signs of laboratory trauma were eventually nursed back to health in part by being released from their cages, but also through the simple act of socializing with other chimps.
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