The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has assumed ownership of 288 chimpanzees at the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Details of the agreement are still under discussion, but the arrangement "establishes a permanent home for the chimpanzees, with guaranteed support," says Coulston spokesperson Don McKinney. The animals have all been exposed to either HIV or hepatitis B as part of research protocols, and they will continue to be available for research.
Coulston has been under fire from animal rights groups and is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) animal welfare office (ScienceNOW, 2 November 1999 ). As part of a 1999 settlement with the USDA, Coulston agreed to surrender up to 300 of its chimpanzees by January 2002 (ScienceNOW, 2 September 1999 ), and McKinney says the 288 chimps, plus 21 animals slated to retire and move to a sanctuary, would bring Coulston into compliance with that agreement.
For now, Coulston is continuing to care for the chimpanzees with funds from NIH, but that may change, says NIH deputy director Wendy Baldwin. The NIH has filed notice that it's seeking a new contractor to manage the chimps' current home, a facility on Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo.