This past March, the Human Society of the United States filed an accusation against one of the leading nonhuman primate research facilities in the country, claiming it had systematically bred federally-owned chimpanzees—an act which has been banned in the US since 1995. According to the Human Society’s accusation, the New Iberia Research Center, based in Louisiana, bred a total of 123 chimps that had at least one federally-owned parent between 2000 and 2009. But in the 2011 Senate Appropriations Report released this summer, the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health, concluded that the New Iberia Research Center “does not have an active breeding program involving federally owned chimpanzees.” In fact, upon reviewing New Iberia’s chimp breeding records, the NCRR found only 28 chimpanzees were born to federally-owned parents, not 123 as the Human Society claimed. Both New Iberia and NCRR concluded that the births were the result of isolated mistakes, and neutering procedures and better colony management have already been put in place.
“NCRR is not sure how the number 123 was arrived at but would be willing to evaluate any additional records that were obtained by other animal rights groups and follow up with NIRC if there are any discrepancies,” NCRR wrote in the report.
But Kathleen Conlee, animal research program director with the Humane Society, told Wired Science that the NCRR has declined to discuss the matter further. When she contacted the NCRR’s nonhuman primate resource coordinator, Harold Watson, back in June, he responded: “NIH takes all allegations brought to our attention seriously and we will take appropriate steps to review and address potential cases of noncompliance.… I appreciate your offer to meet regarding this issue, but I do not feel that is necessary.”
New Iberia receives approximately $1 million a year from NCRR to maintain its chimpanzee colony. The 28 chimps born from federally-owned parents are now being cared for by the University of Lafayette in Louisiana, Thomas Rowell, director of the New Iberia Research Center, told Wired.