The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is ending its controversial chimp research program after years of pressure from activists.
The agency’s announcement on Wednesday entirely eliminates the program, which had been reduced to 50 chimps from more than 400 in 2013. Each of the remaining chimps will be retired and resettled, NIH Director Francis Collins told staff Wednesday.
“It is time to acknowledge that there is no further justification for the 50 chimpanzees to continue to be kept available for invasive biomedical research,” Collins wrote to NIH administrators.
The NIH had been slowly — and quietly — reducing the size of its chimp research program since 2013. Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tightened the rules for using chimps, requiring researchers to seek a permit to conduct research.
With the new rules from the Fish and Wildlife Service and “the significantly reduced demand for chimpanzees” in research, Collins said, “It is clear that we’ve reached a tipping point.”
Chimps have been under the watchful eye of groups such as the Humane Society and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who have also helped earn the animals a spot on the government’s endangered species list.