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Chimp Haven starts $5.1M expansion drive

Associated Press Published: November 10, 2012

U.S. Sens. David Vitter, a Republican, and Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, have asked NIH Director Francis Collins whether $3 million unused in a 10-year contract that ended in July might be used for construction at Chimp Haven.

"The cost would eventually be offset and the savings over the long term would be significant — potentially $700,000 a year," because it costs much less to keep chimpanzees in sanctuaries than in labs, they wrote.

Allen said the privately operated, nonprofit sanctuary got a new 10-year contract in July. The first came in under budget partly because Chimp Haven has fewer animals than originally expected and partly because "we were very careful with the money," she said.

Right now many questions about the New Iberia chimps are unanswered, including how many are healthy and how many carry infectious diseases — or even their ages and genders, Whitaker said.

Chimp Haven has already needed big money this year. Retired talk show host Bob Barker gave $600,000 to help build a habitat for five chimps with HIV and pay their expenses for three years. And Anita Hirsh of Los Angeles pledged lifetime support for a baby born even though the father had two vasectomies.

NIH pays three-quarters of the $13,000-a-year cost of supporting chimps used in federal research, but the sanctuary must cover the entire cost of others, and all costs for creating habitats.

The drive's second, $2.5 million phase would increase Chimp Haven's capacity to 308 animals. Its master plan calls for more than 400.

"Many more than that are in biomedical research waiting to be retired," Whitaker said.

She said an NIH working group is expected to report in January on how many chimpanzees should be taken out of research programs.