Baby chimpanzee, name unknown, born into research at LEMSIP
Photo: © Michael Nichols from Brutal Kinship
“…after careful review of existing chimpanzee resources, NCRR [National Center for Research Resources] has determined that it does not have the financial resources to support the breeding of chimpanzees that are owned or supported by NCRR.” Read more
Maintaining chimpanzees is an expensive proposition. According to Project R&R’s investigations, 30-50 percent of the total annual cost of federally funded chimpanzee research is for their housing and maintenance. Housing and maintaining chimpanzees for research—apart from the expenses of the actual experiments—costs the U.S. taxpayer $20-25 million per year. Money allocated to the continued breeding of chimpanzees is included within the housing and maintenance grants. Until 2007, when the government declared a permanent end to federal funding for breeding, breeding came with an enormous financial burden to the U.S. taxpayer, as well as profound emotional costs to the chimpanzees and their offspring.
Annie was intended to be used as a “breeder” at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP)
Photo: © Fauna Foundation
History and costs
In 2007, a landmark decision was made by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) to permanently end funding for the breeding of NCRR owned or supported chimpanzees. Prior to that, a voluntary breeding moratorium was declared in 1995 and renewed in 1997; the moratorium remained in effect through 2007, when the permanent ending to federal funding was announced.
However, throughout those years, Project R&R’s research shows that a number of NIH approved grants included breeding as a goal. Such funded protocols effectively allowed facilities to circumvent the breeding moratorium.
In 2000, NIRC received Grant 3U42RR003583-14S1: “Establishment of a Chimpanzee Breeding/Research Program.” Funded at $335,000, the abstract explains:
“The National institutes of Health established five centers, managed by the NCRR national chimpanzee breeding and research program (CBRP), to perpetuate the chimpanzee population in the U.S. and to insure the stable supply of chimpanzees for this essential research. As one of the five centers selected to participate in the CBRP, the U.S.L.—New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) has established a productive chimpanzee breeder colony, now consisting of 128 animals. NIRC has 292 chimpanzees on site and the facility houses a total population of 4500 non-human primates. The long-term objective of NIRC is the [sic] support the goals established for chimpanzees by the NIH/NCRR in regard to perpetuation of the chimpanzee population in the U.S. by maintenance of a healthy breeding population and to insure the stable supply of this valuable resource for essential biomedical and behavioral research….
In addition to the 2000 grant of $335,000, NIRC also received $820,281 in federal funding for another project: “Establishment/Maintenance of Biomedical Research Colony.” [1U42RR015087-01]. The abstract clarifies that the funding was for the breeding and maintenance of chimpanzees and not the facility’s other 4,500 animals.
Thus, the cost to the public in 2000 for maintaining a colony of chimpanzees at NIRC was close to $1.15 million. Between 2000 and 2006, NIRC received over $8 million in funding to maintain their chimpanzee population.
Grant 3—Amount unavailable
The 2000 NIRC research protocol “Slow, Latent and Temperate Virus Infections,” received NIH funding to conduct research into Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). [Grant 3N01NS092302-003] In reviewing the abstract it appears that the funding is allotted to provide a bank of nonhuman primates (including chimpanzees) as a supply for potentially infected nervous tissue (though human tissue is available). How directly the money was used for actual protocols is unclear:
The contractor [NIRC] provides care, housing, and research support for nonhuman primates assigned to the Laboratory of Central Nervous System Studies, NINDS [National Institute of Nervous Disorders and Stroke], in their effort to accomplish these goals [control progression of TSEs]. The contractor is responsible for monitoring nonhuman primates that have been, or will be, inoculated via various routes, with tissues known, or suspected to be, infected with one of the TSE agents, recording findings, and performing appropriate procedures to provide the Project Officer with animal samples for evaluation.
A portion of this contract was allotted to fund the costs of maintaining nonhuman primates for research. The full amount of the contract (unavailable due to incomplete data) was not allotted solely for chimpanzees but for a mixed population of nonhuman primates. Information received by Project R&R in October 2003 through the Freedom of Information Act indicates that there were 57 chimpanzees used for the TSE research at New Iberia. Therefore, the estimated $1.15 million to sustain chimpanzees at NIRC in 2000 is an indeterminable amount higher.
In addition to grants providing for the physical maintenance of chimpanzees, grants to breed them are numerous. For example, the abstract for the 2000 NIH grant to Yerkes (5R01RR005994-09), “Reproductive parameters of the chimpanzee model,” states that the research is designed “to study the molecular basis of post-testicular sperm maturation in the chimpanzee,” research likely intended to better manipulate chimpanzee breeding.
These studies are essential in understanding primate reproductive function, and may contribute to the development of contraceptive strategies based on interfering with post-testicular sperm maturation. This would permit fertility control in the captive chimpanzee population while not compromising social interactions and the potential use of the chimpanzee population for biomedical research. [Grant 5R01RR005994-09].
Other year 2000 grants
- Yerkes received an additional $6.18 million in 2000 to conduct various studies. At least five of the studies were focused on chimpanzee breeding and genetic management.
- Manipulation of reproduction has been a core component of primate research for decades. In 1974, Frederick Wiseman’s film PRIMATE exposed breeding research (among other things) that was taking place at the Yerkes Primate Research Center. (2) (The film is available for viewing at NEAVS sponsored events.)
- The Coulston Foundation (now closed) received two grants in 2000 for a total of $1.2 million, for the “Establishment of a Breeding and Research Program.” The grant abstract stated:
“The Coulston Foundation proposes to continue a self-sustaining chimpanzee breeding colony of animals which will produce 10-15 animals per year. Approximately 50% will he [sic] retained each year to serve as eventual breeders. The remaining infants will he [sic] provided to research programs of national importance. …. Two populations will be maintained, formed from a genetic strategy provided, designating animals to either research and breeding pools, thus creating a purpose bred chimpanzee.”
“The genetic management of chimpanzees was a clear objective in NIH’s 1997 report which stated “… research-oriented genetic management must balance the goals of preserving the long-term viability of the population with those of specific research needs… The finite size of the U.S. research chimpanzee population indicates that inbreeding is inevitable if chimpanzee breeding is to be continued in perpetuity. That implies that genetic-management techniques should be used to avoid inbreeding and maintain genetic variability.” (3)
Both Southwest National Primate Research Center and University of Texas/M.D. Anderson Cancer Center house large numbers of chimpanzees (166 and 168 respectively). Ongoing: between 2000 and 2006, MD Anderson was awarded more than $25 million to house, care, and maintain their chimpanzees.
In summary, Project R&R determined that in 2000 alone a total of approximately $6.4 million was granted to 18 projects; devoted primarily to the housing, maintenance, and breeding of chimpanzees. An exact figure is difficult to arrive at since some of these awards included a mixed population of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates, and the data available for NIH funding is incomplete. Thus, our estimates are likely conservative.
Grant information from the National Institutes of Health Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool.