A major primate research facility located in New Mexico has finally completed a process that began back in 2005. More than 200 chimpanzees have been relocated from the Coulston Research Facility in New Mexico to a sanctuary in Florida. Marking an end to a miserable experience for the chimps, their new home will be a 200 acre island in Fort Pierce, Florida. The new environment will be a drastic change for the chimpanzees, which were regularly used for biomedical and chemical research.
Spearheaded by the animal rights organization, Save the Chimps, the chimpanzee migration is seen as a major victory by animal rights activists. The Coulston Facility was a notorious animal research facility that specialized in primate-testing. The facility has been under fire since 2001 when it was formally charged by The US Department of Agriculture.
Among the charges were accusations that the facility was responsible for the negligent deaths of several primates. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration is rumored to have been in the process of disqualifying the laboratory for constant violations of the Good Laboratory Practices law. After losing much of its funding, both federal and private, the Coulston Facility had been selling baby chimpanzees.
The entire movement to rescue the laboratory primates was the passion of noted primatologist Carole C Noon. Dr. Noon began the migration back in 2005 and states “After endless rhetoric nothing had been accomplished on the chimps’ behalf. They had run out of options. The Coulston Foundation had been reduced to selling baby chimps just to make payroll. Now we begin the process of rehabilitation and restitution for terrible wrongs inflicted in the name of science.” In addition Dr. Noon called the move “…the largest single effort on behalf of captive chimpanzees ever.” After passing in 2009, the work of Dr. Noon has been continued by a passionate staff that shares her vision of erasing primate testing.
The chimpanzees were used for varying types of primate research. Many were former US Air Force chimpanzees previously used in the US space program. As they were returned to comfortable family environments the chimps began to transition to a much more relaxed state. According to Dr. Jocelyn Bezner, a veterinarian with Save the Chimps “Everything changes-body language, hair, personality…they are very vocal. They express their emotions.”
Many workers with the Save the Chimps staff are making the move along with the chimpanzees. Loaded onto specially made vehicles, the last of the research chimpanzees began the 37-hour long journey to Florida as recently as Monday. Ages of the chimpanzees range from two to 40 years-old, the youngest being actual descendents of the Air Force chimps.
The Save the Chimp Center believes that each chimp has value and that chimpanzees are “persons, not commodities.” For this reason they do not partake in any buying, selling, trade or loan of chimpanzees. Many believe we are witnessing the end of primate research. There are still monkeys and chimpanzees in research facilities but many say they will soon be relocated to sanctuaries. Whatever the future holds, the recent exodus of chimps from the monstrous Coulston Research facility is a victory for captive chimpanzees. Dr. Noon would be very proud.