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National Institutes Of Health To Retire Last 50 Research Chimps

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The National Institutes of Health decided their last 50 research chimps are no longer needed. That means some new tenants are coming to Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Louisiana. Cathy Willis Spraetz runs the group, and she's on the line with us.

Welcome.

CATHY WILLIS SPRAETZ: Thank you so much. It's great to be here.

SHAPIRO: Is there much of an adjustment period when a chip comes out of a life at a research lab to a sanctuary like this?

SPRAETZ: It really depends on the chimpanzee. You know, they're just like us, Ari. They have the ability to be resilient. And so we just let them set the pace, and we follow their lead.

SHAPIRO: Is there such a thing as a bad chimp? I mean, you know, a chimp that really can't integrate into the group?

SPRAETZ: We have had over 300 chimpanzees come through Chimp Haven's doors, and we have successfully introduced chimpanzees to each other well over 200 times. So we've had great success.

SHAPIRO: The NIH has stopped using chimpanzees for research now. Will your sanctuary eventually no longer be necessary? Is the idea that these chimpanzees live out their natural life and then everybody kind of closes up shop and goes home?

SPRAETZ: Well, it could be up to 50 years before there are no longer chimpanzees that would be living in captivity other than in zoos. But there is a great need for other primates to be retired at some point, and when they are, Chimp Haven will most likely convert its mission to include other primates.

SHAPIRO: That's Cathy Willis Spraetz, president of Chimp Haven outside of Shreveport, La.

Thanks for talking with us, and congratulations on your soon-to-be new arrivals.

SPRAETZ: Thank you so much Ari. It was my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.