Feds spending $7.5 million on retirement village for chimps

Government primates are being retired to New Mexico, with accounts of nearly $200,000 each.

Published: March 14, 2020 11:21am

Updated: March 15, 2020 1:23pm

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.

This week, we are awarding the coveted title to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for a $7.5 million contract awarded to Charles River Laboratories to house retired government chimpanzees used in prior research.

Though the facility estimates an ability to house up to 288 chimpanzees comfortably, there are only 40-50 elderly chimps in the program. Meaning between $150,000 and $187,000 will be spent on the eldercare of each ape.

The chimpanzees have devoted their lives to science. Most of them have been exposed to viruses including, Hepatitis C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The aging mammals are also experiencing health complications due to old age, including heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, and obesity. A majority of the chimps are suffering from two or more of the above.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is a division of the National Institute of Health (NIH), which itself is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH requires a contractor to operate the facility where the chimps will live out the remainder of their days. The Charles River Laboratories company staff were selected for the job, which according to the contract entails “high risks” due to viruses the animals have been exposed to, because of their “site-specific knowledge and expertise required to humanely and safely care for this unique chimpanzee colony.”

The keepers of the chimps have been issued firm guidelines that no ape may leave the base, on penalty of being denied access upon return. Furthermore, “NO RESEARCH IS ALLOWED,” states the contract. This is strictly a retirement village.

Charles River Laboratories is a publicly listed, for-profit research and pharmaceutical company, head-quartered in Wilmington, Mass. The team of primate caretakers will be dispatched to Alamogordo, New Mexico where the Alamogordo Primate Facility is located.

The move is not a permanent one, since “the number of chimpanzees is expected to decrease over time as they die due to natural causes or are humanely euthanized in accordance with quality of life guidelines,” according to the federal contract.

Spokespeople for the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIH-HHS) were unavailable for comment.

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