Primate Care Committee Statement on IOM Chimpanzee Committee Report

January 22, 2012

At the request of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in response to congressional inquiry, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently conducted an analysis of the scientific necessity of chimpanzees for NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research. This IOM committee issued its report on December 15, 2011, which is entitled, “Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity” (available at The report establishes criteria to guide current and future research use of chimpanzees and it suggests that an independent oversight committee be established that uses the recommended criteria. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH, has indicated that he is accepting the IOM committee recommendations and will be forming a committee to advise on the implementation of the IOM committee recommendations, and other relevant issues.

Dr. Fragaszy (ASP President) has asked ASP’s Primate Care Committee to provide a statement related to establishing this process. Our comments are restricted to issues related to the care of chimpanzees.

We recommend that members of the independent oversight committee should have expertise in a range of areas related to captive chimpanzee care. These include proficiency in chimpanzee health and veterinary care, chimpanzee welfare, management of chimpanzees, chimpanzee training methods, and expertise in small population management. All of these areas related to captive chimpanzee care have foundations in science, and there is a great deal of relevant published literature on these topics. For this reason, we believe that scientists and veterinarians with experience in these areas should be included as members on the oversight committee. In addition, the oversight committee should also include individuals with expertise conducting research with chimpanzee subjects in different areas of scientific investigation (e.g., neuroscientists, infectious disease scientists, behavior scientists).

There are many important issues that should be addressed by this oversight committee, including:

  1. Identifying social housing requirements for research chimpanzees and determining whether any research that necessitates single housing of chimpanzees be allowable.
  2. Defining the term “ethologically appropriate physical and social environments” for captive chimpanzees. This terminology is used in the criteria developed by the IOM committee, but has not been described or defined in a way that would allow assessment of chimpanzee facilities.
  3. Determining necessary elements for appropriate care and housing that meet the needs of chimpanzees.
  4. Identifying animal training approaches needed so that future research is performed on “acquiescent” chimpanzees, as stated in the IOM committee report. These techniques need to be minimally invasive, and minimize pain and distress experienced by the chimpanzees.
  5. If resumption of breeding of chimpanzees is determined by the NIH to be desirable, then how this could best be accomplished for future availability of the animals for research.
  6. Developing criteria for the types of personnel expertise required for staffing chimpanzee laboratory facilities, and identifying or developing appropriate training materials.
  7. Recommending the appropriate population size and location of NIHowned or NIH-supported chimpanzees, under these new guidelines.

ASP is committed to the humane care and treatment of all nonhuman primates, in natural settings and captivity, as laid out in the Society’s statement “Principles for the Ethical Treatment of Nonhuman Primates”, approved in 2001. The Society’s stance on the IOM report concerning chimpanzees in research reflects our commitment to these principles.