U.S. Government Researchers Agree to Retire All But 50 Research Chimps

A proposal from a National Institutes of Health committee has agreed that all but 50 of the hundreds of chimpanzees kept for federally funded research should be retired from labs and sent to a national sanctuary.

The proposal also said that all of the chimps should have plenty of room to play and climb.

On Tuesday, the NIH Council of Councils Working Group approved the proposal, which also calls for major cuts to grants to study chimps in laboratories and no return to breeding them for research.

Nine chimpanzees already arrived at Chimp Haven outside Shreveport, La., on Tuesday from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center, which no longer has an NIH chimp research contract. An additional seven chimps are slated to arrive on Thursday, and another 95 will arrive over the coming months, said sanctuary officials.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals responded positively to the news, stating:

"At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth."

In 2011, NIH said that it would phase out most invasive research on chimpanzees. The newly released 86-page recommendation describes how chimpanzees should be kept and what will be needed for any future research.

The Council of Councils proposal says that chimps should only be used if there is no other way to study a threat to human health, and the research should be approved by an independent committee with members from the public. The proposal will be sent to NIH's director after a 60-day public comment period.

Chimp Haven was built on 200 acres of a Caddo Parish park in Keithville in northwest Louisiana.