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Retirement Moves

Some old, sick chimpanzees may live out their lives at US research facilities, rather than be moved to a sanctuary, Nature News reports.

Following a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine that found that technological improvements rendered most chimp-based research obsolete, the National Institutes of Health announced in 2013 that it would retire its most of its research chimps and then in 2015 that the rest would also be retired.

This summer, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) criticized the agency, saying it was moving too slowly. NIH says 375 of its chimpanzees have been relocated to Chimp Haven in Louisiana, while 180 still live in research facilities.

NIH says it is concerned about whether some elderly chimps are healthy enough to be moved, whether being separated from their social groups would harm them, and the lack of space at the sanctuary, Nature News adds. The agency has now developed guidelines that examine the chimps' health, behavior, and other needs to determine whether they are well enough to be moved. If agency and sanctuary officials cannot agree, a panel of independent veterinarians will make an assessment.

"NIH remains fully committed to retiring all chimpanzees it owns or supports to the Federal sanctuary unless relocation would severely or irreversibly accelerate deterioration of the chimpanzee's physical or behavioral health," NIH Director Francis Collins says in a statement.