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‘OUTCASTS’: Tortured chimpanzees dumped on uninhabited island after years of experiments now begging for food to survive

They were victims of torture and are traumatized. One chimp, named Bullet, lost a limb as an infant when poachers killed his mother and ripped him from her arms. He then ended up at the research lab.

ELMIRA TANATAROVA: A group of 65 chimps – the remnants of 400 ex-test ‘subjects’ of a US-funded research projects who survived decades of invasive experiments – are now able to enjoy their days eating fruit and being cared for, scattered across six uninhabited river islands near Liberia. The ‘traumatised’ animals – some of which underwent several hundred biopsies – cannot be released into the wild, and are confined to their new home, about 34 miles south of the West African country’s capital Monrovia, for life…

Chimp testing in Liberia began 1974, when the New York Blood Center (NYBC) funded biomedical research related to hepatitis B and other diseases at a complex by the Farmington River. During Liberia’s devastating 1989-2003 civil war, the chimpanzees nearly starved to death as the country imploded around them.

The researchers retired many of the chimps to the river islands in the mid-2000s but their ordeal continued… Research staff in the impoverished country had to dig into their own pockets to provide basic sustenance… Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, where 44 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank…

For reasons that remain unclear, NYBC cut funding in 2015 – in a move that provoked global outrage – abandoning the apes on the tiny river islands incapable of supporting them. Activists picketed NYBC headquarters in New York and Hollywood stars such as Joaquin Phoenix and Ellen Page signed a petition urging the blood bank to reinstate funding…

Under pressure, NYBC eventually struck an agreement to split the long-term care costs for the chimps with the Humane Society in 2017, pledging $6 million. NYBC did not respond to questions from AFP about why it withdrew funding… Brian Hare, a US-based primatologist who launched the petition, wrote at the time: ‘Effectively they have left these poor chimpanzees to suffer from dehydration and starvation’.

Vet Richard Ssuna said they were ‘traumatised’, and called one grizzled ape with a missing arm a ‘victim of torture’. The chimp, named Bullet, lost the limb as an infant when poachers killed his mother and ripped him from her arms. He then ended up at the research lab. The former lab chimps now enjoy veterinary care and two daily meals, although many still bear the scars of their grim past.

Mr Ssuna, who is also a director of Humane Society International (HSI), a rights group that now looks after the primates, said that the carers are trained to form close attachments with the chimpanzees and to be gentle. He added that certain stimuli can trigger negative memories in chimps, as in humans. Care will continue until every ape on the islands dies, according to the vet.

They never learned to fend for themselves and there are also fears they would spread disease if humans came into contact with them. He estimates that their lifelong care will last some 50 years. Many of the chimps are around 20 years old and have a lifespan of about 60. There are also a small number of babies. HSI plans to vasectomise the males to prevent further births. SOURCE…


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