Plea to Free Oldest Lab Chimpanzee

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Update: In 2015, following pressure from PETA and other animal advocates, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that all captive chimpanzees would now be reclassified as “endangered,” effectively ending invasive experiments on our closest living genetic relatives. In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) promised to retire all federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries. Sadly, since this announcement, few have been retired and many have died while waiting. Please urge NIH to retire these animals now!

Originally posted October 3, 2011:

In a true sign of the times, the editors at Scientific American, one of the most widely read scientific publications in the world, now agree with PETA that experiments on chimpanzees should be banned.

“That chimps and humans react to trauma in a like manner should not come as a surprise. Chimps are our closest living relatives and share a capacity for emotion, including fear, anxiety, grief and rage,” write the editors. “In our view, the time has come to end biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees.”

Hopefully, the editorial will sway members of Congress to support the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, which would end invasive testing on all great apes and allow more than 500 chimpanzees in labs to be released to sanctuaries. And we are certain that the editorial will make its way to the desks of the members of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) chimpanzee experimentation review committee, at whose hearing PETA testified this summer. The IOM is scheduled to release its much-anticipated report on the issue in December. A positive report could help propel passage of the federal bill.  

Such a ban would mean far better living conditions after more than five long decades for Wenka, at 57 the oldest living chimpanzee in a U.S. laboratory. She is one of more than 100 chimpanzees imprisoned at the Yerkes primate laboratory at Emory University in Atlanta and has spent almost her entire life in a laboratory—she was born in a laboratory cage, torn away from her mother, and locked away in a dark room for the first 17 months of her life. The only time that she has spent outside a laboratory was when she was briefly sold as a “pet” in the mid-1950s before quickly being returned to a laboratory.

This past weekend, members of Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, gathered outside Emory University to call for the release of Wenka to a sanctuary, where she can live out her last few years with some freedom and autonomy. So far, Yerkes is refusing, claiming that Wenka is needed for “aging” research. If officials wait much longer, we suppose they will say that she is needed for “death” research too.

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