NIH Says It's Retiring All Research Chimpanzees

PHOTO:The NIH will no longer use chimpanzees for medical testing. Getty Images
The NIH will no longer use chimpanzees for medical testing.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has announced it will permanently stop using chimpanzees for biomedical testing and is retiring its remaining chimpanzee population.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, announced this week that its chimps would be removed from labs and relocated to sanctuaries in the U.S. The government agency had already retired 310 chimps for biomedical testing in 2013 but kept 50 "reserve" chimps on hand for research purposes.

"As a result of these numerous changes over the last few years and the significantly reduced demand for chimpanzees in NIH-supported biomedical research, it is clear that we’ve reached a tipping point," Collins said in statement Wednesday. "I have reassessed the need to maintain chimpanzees for biomedical research and decided that effective immediately, NIH will no longer maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees for future research."

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO and president of the Humane Society of the U.S., said the news was heartening after the group has fought for years to stop chimpanzees from being used in medical laboratories.

"We're elated that these highly intelligent sociable animals are on their way out of laboratories and into better living environments without any threat of people injuring or harming them for any purpose, Pacelle told ABC News.

The Human Society believes that after the NIH announcement, no chimpanzees are currently being used for biomedical testing anywhere in the globe.

The Jane Goodall Institute called the news a "good step forward," but said more work needed to be done to ensure the animals were placed in good sanctuaries.

"We applaud this recent news that federally funded research on chimpanzees is ending and now look forward to getting all of these chimps to sanctuary," according to a statement from the group.

The chimpanzees currently in NIH laboratories will likely be moved to Chimp Haven, a federal sanctuary in Louisiana.