Chimpanzees snack on fruit and vegetables at Louisiana’s Chimp Haven retirement facility. Image by Cameron Hickey.
In another move toward ending invasive research on our chimpanzee cousins, the National Institute of Health announced on Wednesday that it will “substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical research and designate for retirement most of the chimpanzees it currently owns or supports.”
The decision was based on recommendations from an advisory group that examined all of the research projects that use chimps. The agency will keep, but not breed up to 50 chimpanzees in case there’s a need for them in future research.
From a statement by NIH-director Francis Collins:
“Americans have benefitted greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” said Dr. Collins. “Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use. After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”
Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reported on the subject in a piece that ran in May 2012. For the piece, we visited Chimp Haven, a 200-acre retirement oasis for many federally funded chimps and watched them frolic and play and fight among the sweetgum and elm forests. They are committed to developing space for more retired chimps there and expanding the facility to do so. We also visited the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, where they were doing active disease research on chimpanzees and other primates.
Miles O’Brien reported on the debate over chimpanzee research in 2012. Are there ever cases, he asked, in which the scientific value of research should offset the moral cost of working with chimps?
That institute also released a statement on Wednesday, saying that it was disappointed with the decision and calling 50 “an arbitrarily chosen number” not sufficient to maintain research for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, a virus that affects more than 150 million people.
Nautilus Minerals Inc. is expected to drill the world’s first large scale deep sea mine in 2014. They are motivated by huge gold, copper, manganese, and cobalt reserves (among many other metals) but there is significant environmental risk. Have a look at both sides in this infographic from Wired.
- Volvo claims to have developed a “self-parking car,” which “relieves the driver of the time-consuming task of finding a vacant parking space.” See video below.
Also from our reporting on chimpanzee research last year, we came upon this story: ‘Oops Babies’ Sired by Twice-Vasectomized Chimp
Plants ‘do maths’ to control overnight food supplies. BBC reports.
- It was long thought that the mouth of the Komodo dragon contains bacteria that’s used as a form of venom. Ed Yong dispels the myth in this fascinating post on his Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science blog. Turns out large serrated teeth, powerful venom, and a knack for inflicting huge gaping wounds are enough.
NOT SAFE FOR LUNCH
Rebecca Jacobson, Patti Parson, David Pelcyger and Justin Scuiletti contributed to this report.