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Chimp Island - Call of the Wild

CALL OF THE WILD from the SUNDAY TIMES (April 1 2007)

Freed lab chimps to get own islands off Africa

Six remote African islands are to be turned into sanctuaries for chimpanzees, released from research laboratories after years of experimentation.

The islands, off the coast of Liberia, have been taken over by the New York Blood Centre (NYBC) to release more than 70 animals used in its hepatitis research programmes. Campaigners hope the example might inspire the creation of other sanctuaries to house retired research animals, especially great apes. The centre is one of many research institutes to abandon experiments on chimpanzees because it now considers such work unacceptable on ethical and welfare grounds.
The decision to set up sanctuaries for the animals to live out their lives in semi-natural peace has been widely praised by campaigners. The African sanctuaries are initially being set up for the exclusive use of animals released from NYBC's Vilab facility at Robertsfield, Liberia.

If they succeed they could become a model for similar releases of animals from zoos and laboratories. The Vilab centre, set up in the 1970s, made many breakthroughs in blood research, including the development of vaccines to prevent the spread of hepatitis and AIDS viruses.
"Vilab did a great job for a long time but there are new methods for doing this kind of research so we don't need to use chimpanzees," said Betsy Brotman, its director. "Research chimpanzees generally receive little reward for the knowledge we gain."

"Once their work is over their futures are grim. They often live out the rest of their lives, which last an average of 50 years, in cramped cages or laboratories."

Brotman originally planned to release the animals into national parks in Liberia but abandoned the idea when he realised that the chimps associate humans with food and so might pose a risk to tourists and villagers.

Dr. Shirley McGreal, Chairwoman
International Primate Protection League
PO Box 766
Summerville, SC 29484, USA
Phone - 843-871-2280, Fax- 843-871-7988

E-mail - [email protected], Web:
Working to Protect All Primates Since 1973

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