Eagle Post: January 2013

As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reduces its use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research, it is moving more chimps to retirement homes. But the agency could face a problem in paying for their continuing support. At the beginning of 2013, the NIH announced that it would move 113 chimpanzees it owns from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana to Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary, also in Louisiana. The sanctuary is set in 200 acres of pine woods in Keithville and is currently home to 132 chimps that live in more natural surroundings and social conditions than those available at research institutes. Chimps live in a variety of cages and enclosures, including concrete-walled play yards of about a quarter of an acre, open to the sky, and two forested habitats, one four acres and the other five, bounded by a moat and fences.

Biomedical research on chimps helped produce a vaccine for hepatitis B. Another vaccine is aimed at hepatitis C, which infects 170 million people worldwide. Nevertheless, there has long been an outcry against the research as cruel and unnecessary. As it is, the United States is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. The other is the African nation of Gabon.

Using captive chimpanzees for research in the US dates to the 1920s, when Robert Yerkes, a Yale psychology professor, began to bring them into the country. During the 1950s, the Air Force bred chimps for the space program, starting with 65 caught in the wild. Chimps were also bred for AIDS research in the 1980s, which met a dead end. By the mid-1970s, support for preservation of threatened species had grown, and the importing of wild-caught chimps was prohibited. Continue reading Eagle Post: January 2013

Source sought for Taronga’s TB

Pak Boon and Tukta in 2010 (Picture: Bobby-Jo Vial)An expert panel led by NSW Health is continuing work to determine the source of a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak at Taronga Zoo.

In February media reported the TB diagnosis of Pak Boon, one of Taronga’s elephants.

In September Taronga issued a statement on its website which said a male chimp with the disease had been euthanased.

There have been no public health warnings about the presence of the disease at Taronga, drawing criticism from NSW Greens MP John Kaye, who said potential visitors to Taronga were denied the right to evaluate the risk of infection.

“The elephants and the chimps are in enclosures that are 50 metres apart, and there are two public walkways in between,” Kaye said.

“It is possible there is a risk to humans; not a great risk, but I think NSW Health and the zoo are making it impossible for clients to make their own assessments.”

Kaye has called on Health Minister Jillian Skinner to force the zoo to warn visitors of the presence of TB in two species, and therefore the possibility that the infection spread from one to the other.

He added that he is particularly concerned about school groups.

“Teachers and principals have to sign off on the well-being of children without being given full information, so I will continue to put pressure on NSW Health,” Kaye said.

“Australia has an excellent track record for infection control regarding TB, and it would be a terrible thing to compromise that record to support the profitability of the zoo.”

Taronga Media Relations Manager, Mark Williams, denied that profits have been put before public health. Continue reading Source sought for Taronga’s TB