UL Lafayette and nonprofit plan to resettle 220 retired research chimps
LAFAYETTE - A partnership with the University of Lafayette has announced an agreement to relocate more than 200 retired research chimpanzees to its new sanctuary in northern Georgia.
Project Chimps, the nonprofit organization, along with the university’s New Iberia Research Center began negotiating the agreement more than two years ago with the ultimate goal being to resettle the largest population of apes from a U.S. research center. The chimpanzees were retired from research in 2015, ahead of reclassification under the Endangered Species Act.
Starting this summer, 10 New Iberia Research Center chimps will be taken to the Project Chimps 236-acre sanctuary in Blue Ridge, Georgia. The resarch center is located around 30 miles from Lafayette.
All of the New Iberia chimps will be moved in social groups to the facility over the next few years, according to Sarah Baeckler Davis, Project Chimps founder. Each social group consists of 10 chimpanzees.
The New Iberia lab came under scrutiny in 2008 after ABC's "Nightline" did an exposé on the facility. NIRC's research includes contract work for pharmaceutical companies and hepatitis studies and receives public funding. At the time, the Humane Society decried the conditions the apes were kept in, saying they were often forced to stay in poor conditions while being frequently tranquilized. Undercover video even showed a lab employee hitting an infant monkey in the head and swearing when the monkey bites at her finger.
In the wake of the "Nightline" piece, a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at the New Iberia lab was ordered by the Secretary of Agriculture as the lab was accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
The University of Lafayette is contributing funding toward the nonprofit’s care of the sanctuary. Baeckler Davis says the move is historic.
“Project Chimps is the appropriate partner for our chimpanzees. We share many values. I believe that for the rest of their lives, our chimpanzees will be provided with the high-quality care they’ve been accustomed to at NIRC,” Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of Research at UL Lafayette said.
Baeckler Davis added, “We feel confident that the chimps will continue to receive excellent care at NIRC during the transition. Project Chimps and NIRC staff will cooperate on every aspect of each chimp’s well-being.
The project is continuing its fundraising efforts following the announcement of the agreement as they work to secure support from the public to help resettle the chimps to their new “retirement center.” Baeckler Davis points out that anyone can contribute financially to the effort.
For more information about Project Chimps, visit ProjectChimps.org.