Created by on 1/18/2011 12:00:00 AM

On December 30, 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) halted the impending transfer of 186 chimpanzees from the Alamogordo Primate Facility on the Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas. The chimpanzees, which have not been involved in experiments since 2001, were scheduled to be transferred to the new facility due to an expiring contract between NIH and Charles River Laboratories, which manages the Alamogordo facility. The move has been strongly opposed by animal rights activists and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who argued that the transfer of the animals would violate the Animal Welfare Act and that the aged chimps would be subjected to additional invasive research at the Texas facility. Richardson, also concerned about the economic impact to New Mexico of the 40 jobs that would be lost as a result of the transfer, wanted the chimps to remain at the facility and be granted permanent retirement. 

Two weeks prior to the announcement that the chimps would get a reprieve, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, co-signed a letter to Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), asking for an “in-depth analysis of the current and future need for chimpanzee use in biomedical research.” FASEB wrote to Institute of Medicine (IoM) President Dr. Harvey Fineberg urging that this study be done by the IoM. An NIH official called Governor Richardson on one of his last days in office to inform him that the transfer would be postponed until NAS completes its study, which is expected by June of 2012. On January 4, 2011, NIH issued comments about the halted transfer of the chimps noting that “The thoughtful analysis and rigorous review anticipated from the IoM report will be a valuable means to address this issue.”