In 2002, this is how writer Jospeh D'Agnese memorably referred to the massive surplus of chimpanzees the U.S. biomedical community found themselves burdened by. After mistakenly assuming decades earlier that our closest cousins would be the perfect research model for the then newly-emerging HIV virus, labs were encouraged to breed as many as they could, as quickly as they could. They did exactly that during the 1980's. By the late 1990's the U.S. government owned well over 400 chimpanzees, most of whom languished in research facilities – a warehousing of sorts. As the last Western country still using chimpanzees for biomedical research, the demand for chimps as lab subjects had dried up.
Fast forward to 2013, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continues to struggle with the question of what to do with hundreds of these long-lived, resource-intensive individuals for whom they have no “work.” Captive chimpanzees can easily live six decades or more, Where and how they will live has been a subject of much discussion recently, but an even more important aspect of this dilemma involves the funding required to provide lifetime care to these former research subjects when and if they are finally retired. Who should pay the millions of dollars necessary for them to live out their lives in sanctuaries?
For more about this topic, see:
Obstacles to Financing for Retired Chimpanzees NY Times 12/24/12
Agency Moves to Retire Most Research Chimps NY Times 1/23/13
After Lab, What's Next for Chimps? Lexington Herald-Leader 2/10/13