Entries in Chimpanzees (3)


Agency Pushes to Retire Chimps from Research Projects

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte(NEW YORK) -- Chimp Haven, outside Shreveport, La., welcomed seven research chimpanzees into their new home, a move that came on the heels of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposal that recommends all but 50 of the 360 chimpanzees currently being used in federally funded research be retired.

The recommendation would effectively end most biomedical research projects in the U.S. that involve chimpanzees.  The remaining colony of 50 chimps would primarily be used for behavioral research.

The NIH formed the committee following a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine that found most biomedical research involving chimps was unnecessary.  The committee also suggests major cuts to grants for studying chimps in laboratories, as well as ceasing to breed them for research, and it sets a high bar for research involving the remaining chimps.

The recommendations were celebrated by animal rights groups that have made efforts to put an end to animal testing.

"We're certainly pleased that the United States has finally joined the rest of the world in ending the national disgrace that is the experimentation on chimpanzees," said Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The recommendations are now in a procedural stage that allows for public comment during the next 60 days, at the end of which the NIH director will make an announcement on whether the government agency will implement the changes.

In the meantime, Chimp Haven, the only federally approved animal retirement sanctuary in the country, is preparing for the announcement, expected some time in March.  The haven is already caring for 109 retired, federally-owned chimps, and officials there are proceeding under the assumption the NIH will implement the recommendation.

"If there are more chimpanzees the government deems ready for retirement, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to take them in and take care of them and give them the humane care that they deserve," Karen Allen, Chimp Haven's national advancement director, told ABC News.

The move to end most research projects using chimpanzees will have limited to no impact on biomedical research, according to the NIH.

At a press conference Wednesday, the group's co-chair, Dr. Daniel Geschwind, noted there are "...other animal models and other ways of doing the studies that might be more efficient, that wouldn't require the chimpanzees."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Chimpanzees vs. Humans: Sizing Up Their Strength

F1online/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The mauling of Texas graduate student Andrew Oberle by two chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in South Africa Thursday was a reminder that in strength, size might not matter.

Chimpanzees are considered the closest living relative of humans, sharing 95 to 98 percent of the same DNA, according to the Jane Goodall Institute in Washington, D.C., a separate entity from the facility in South Africa.

But in no way do humans compare with a chimps' sheer strength and the few percentage points in which the two differ are extreme, many experts say.

"It's the closest thing we know to human warfare" when a chimp is provoked, said Steve Ross, director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study of Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. "Chimps are incredibly strong and fast so humans are easily overpowered."

Indeed, chimpanzees have been shown to be about four times as strong as humans comparable in size, according to evolutionary biologist Alan Walker, formerly of Pennsylvania State University. Research suggests the difference in strength between the two lies in the muscle performance. In chimps, the muscles closest to the bones -- those deemed to be the source of strength of both chimps and humans -- are much longer and more intense, so a chimp is able to generate more power using the same range of motion, Ross of the Lester Fisher Center said. The skeletal muscle fibers are much longer and denser, so they can generate more power in the same range of motion.

Also, unlike humans, chimpanzees have less control over their muscles. As a result, sometimes chimps use more of their muscle strength than necessary, according to Walker's theory, published 2009 in the journal Current Anthropology. Such physical lack of control can potentially lead some chimps to become more aggressive when physical. In Thursday's case, however, an internal investigation by the Jane Goodall Institute near Johannesburg showed that the chimps might not have intended to be malicious, Eugene Cussons, director of the institute, told ABC’s Good Morning America today.

The two chimps saw Oberle's crossing the fence into the chimps' space as a violation of their territory, prompting them to take action, Cussons said.

"They have no anger," Cussons said of the chimps. "This is why we come to the conclusion, as far as our expertise goes, that it was a territorial defense. They directed the violence towards Andrew whom they feel was infringing on their territory."

Chimpanzees have a wide range of emotions and they are similar to what humans experience, yet they are known to have erratic and unpredictable impulses, Ross said. The emotional impulses also play a role in how aggressive they can become, he said.

"They can adapt very well to their environment but that doesn't preclude that they are territorial and they are violent and wild animals first," Ross said. "There's an aggression toward individuals that are not in their group."

But chimps are often seen as friendly and cute animals because many facilities use preventive measures to prevent the aggression, he said.

Indeed, the same muscles that are considered to be the source of a chimp's strength can also be seen as a detriment for the animal.  The lengthy muscle fibers mean chimps and other great apes can't swim, Ross said. To protect humans, many zoos create water barriers around the chimps' area so they cannot physically approach, Ross said.

While chimps are most often seen in a zoo environment or in facilities working hand in hand with humans, they are inherently wild and aggressive animals so both trained and untrained individuals should never let their guard down, he added.

"There's never a safe time to be in the same place as a chimp," Ross said. "The natural tendency of chimpanzees is one of aggression and there's always a need among them to demonstrate power and territory."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chimp Research Unethical, IOM Says

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- The Institute of Medicine has called for strict limits on the use of chimpanzees -- the closest genetic relatives to humans -- in medical and behavioral research.

“The committee concluded that research using animals that are so closely related to humans should not proceed unless it offers insights not possible with other animal models and unless it is of sufficient scientific or health value to offset the moral costs,” said Jeffrey Kahn, chairman of the IOM committee,  in a news release. "We found very few cases that satisfy these criteria.”

The IOM’s report said the amount of research conducted on chimps had decreased over the past 10 years but should continue only if there were no other suitable models for the research, the research could not be conducted ethically on humans and not using chimps would slow or prevent important progress against life-threatening diseases.

Chimpanzees are viewed as more accurate models for how diseases and treatments develop in people than other animals, such as mice. But because chimps share some behavioral characteristics with humans, many scientists have concluded that experimenting on them is unethical.

Scientists have used chimps to develop vaccines and treatments for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and the IOM report said private research companies have used the animals to test drug safety and efficacy.

The primates are used both by federally funded researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  as well as by researchers in the private sector.

The U.S. is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees; the other is Gabon in central Africa. There are approximately 1,000 chimpanzees in U.S. research facilities, according to a report in the New York Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio