The National Institutes of Health could soon be letting most of its 451 research chimpanzees retire in sanctuaries, if new recommendations are put into effect. The NIH Council of Councils approved a report yesterday that unanimously recommends almost all the chimps should no longer be used for research, with just 50 being kept on hand for the possibility of new research (which would need to be approved by an independent committee). The NIH director will decide in late March whether to implement the recommendations, the New York Times reports.
The NIH started looking at its usage of chimps after a 2011 report said that most biomedical research using chimps isn't scientifically necessary, NPR reports. The recommendations also include guidelines for the 50 chimps who remain on hand: They must live in groups of seven or more, with at least 1,000 square feet per chimp and room to climb, and they must have outdoor access and food foraging opportunities. Says a PETA director: "At last, our federal government understands: a chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth."