A Review of Autopsy Reports on Chimpanzees In or From US Laboratories
Theodora Capaldo and Marge Peppercorn
Approximately 1000 chimpanzees are currently held in five federally owned, or supported, US laboratories. This study reviews 110 autopsy reports on chimpanzees who died from 2001–2011 in laboratories or in sanctuaries (but who were from laboratories), in order to glean information about their premorbid health and causes of death. The findings raise questions about the health status of the chimpanzees remaining in laboratories. Most of the chimpanzees currently held are not involved in active protocols. The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act 2000 states that chimpanzees “not needed” for research “shall” be accepted into the federal sanctuary system, but criteria for when a chimpanzee is deemed “not needed” are not given. The assessment of “not needed” lies with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has left the decision to the discretion of the laboratories. This autopsy review revealed that the majority of the chimpanzees who died in laboratories had been suffering from significant chronic or incurable illnesses, and most often had multi-system diseases that should have made them ineligible for future research, on scientific, as well as ethical, grounds. The study’s findings are significant in establishing the need for defined criteria for chimpanzee retirement to sanctuary.