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Medical testing on chimpanzees no longer allowed, the National Institutes of Health says

The National Institutes of Health has decided that it will no longer allow its chimpanzees to be used for biomedical research for human health. NewsHour's Stephen Fee reports.

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  • STEPHEN FEE:

    At this 200-acre expanse near Shreveport, in Western Louisiana, chimpanzees have the run of the place.

    It's called "Chimp Haven," a sort of retirement community for chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative in the Animal Kingdom.

    The National Institutes of Health decided last month to end its support for biomedical experiments on chimpanzees, and it will send them here to live out their days.

    NIH Director Francis Collins says such medical testing is no longer necessary.

  • DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:

    A lot of the things that we used to depend on chimpanzees or other animals, we can now actually do in other ways that are probably more reliable in terms of their predictability about what would happen in a human being.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    The NIH began winding down its testing on chimpanzees two years ago, keeping just 50 of them on reserve.

    Since then, there's been just one request to use an NIH chimp for research — and it was withdrawn. So Collins made the decision to release the remaining 50 primates.

  • FRANCIS COLLINS:

    Those chimps who participated in research, whether it was on AIDS or hepatitis C, they gave us all a gift by the things that we learned. But science has moved on, and it's clear at this point, that there is not a compelling reason for those infectious diseases or other reasons to continue to do this research.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    Animal welfare groups have long pressed to end that testing on chimps.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in June to classify captive chimps as "endangered," in addition to chimps in the wild.

    The NIH owns 491 chimps and 193 have already moved to the federally funded Chimp Haven.

    The rest will be relocated here in the coming years, as funding and space permit.

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