Friday, October 04, 2002


Animal Tales: A chimp happy ending
By Alex Cukan
United Press International

More than 40 years ago, America was celebrating its seven Mercury Astronauts who were chosen to ride the first of the country's rockets high above the atmosphere, but the real pioneers of the space program were not men but chimpanzees....

As the human space program got fully under way, the astronauts received heroes' welcomes, but the "chimponauts" and their non-flying fellow chimpanzees were assigned by the Air Force to "hazardous mission environments," including being the subjects of seat belt development.

Over time, the Air Force switched to crash dummies and stopped using the chimpanzees. In the 1970s, it released several for biomedical research purposes....

"Chimp Haven is a start, but here are about 1,700 chimpanzees in research laboratories nationwide and most will have to be taken care of," Rowan said. "While animals in other lab experiments may be euthanized after the research is over, the National Institutes of Health has determined that because chimpanzees as so close to humans 'euthanasia is not a management option.'"

Many chimpanzees remain confined in laboratory facilities -- mostly in 5-foot by 7-foot cages -- because there are no other places for them.

According to Rowan, no one knows how many chimpanzees are being held in privately but he estimates there could be as many as 2,000, while according to other estimates about 200 might be employed in entertainment....