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NIH Retires The Last Of Its Research Chimps

In this Aug. 2014 photo, a chimp sits in a tree at Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La.
Brandon Wade
AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States and Chimp
In this Aug. 2014 photo, a chimp sits in a tree at Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La.

After retiring hundreds of research chimpanzees in 2013, the NIH says 50 remaining chimps will no longer be used for medical studies.

The 50 chimpanzees were kept in case they were needed in a public health emergency, but now they will be moving into a federal sanctuary as soon as there is room.

"It's time to say we've reached the point in the U.S. where invasive research on chimpanzees is no longer something that makes sense," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, according to The Associated Press.

As NPR previously reported, the vast majority of the primates were used in studies related to genetics and behavior. In recent years, the scientific community has begun to feel that even these studies are unnecessary.

The AP added that about 300 government-owned chimpanzees had already been sent to live out their days at Chimp Haven, a federally approved sanctuary in Louisiana.

When the initial announcement about the chimps' retirement was made two years ago, we reported on what their post-NIH lives would look like:

"The retired chimps will live out their lives in an environment similar to those in the wild. They will be in social groups of at least seven, and live inside enclosures where they can climb and forage for food. But the NIH won't follow a recommendation that each chimp be given 1,000 square feet of living space. Collins says: 'We did not feel that there was adequate scientific evidence at present' to support that requirement. The cost involved with providing so much space was also an issue, he says."

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