SAN ANTONIO, 12 FEB 2009 — On Wednesday, the Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas issued an opinion that leaves six chimpanzees in Chimp Haven, a site in Louisiana which normally accepts chimpanzees from the federal government to save laboratory maintenance costs. Ohio State University once used the group of chimpanzees in cognition studies, and in 2006 decided to transfer these chimpanzees to a private sanctuary, Primarily Primates of Texas.
“This isn’t a decision on the merits of the case,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals and the Primarily Primates sanctuary. “The appeals court decided the case on jurisdiction only. But it means the sanctuary will not be taking in six more chimpanzees this year, as previously expected.
As the Court of Appeals explained, Chimp Haven was housing the former lab chimpanzees on a temporary basis, pending an earlier lawsuit against Primarily Primates.
But when that suit was dismissed, Chimp Haven refused to return them to Primarily Primates. A trial court decided the group should be returned to Texas, but Chimp Haven – which, unlike Primarily Primates, is open to viewing by tourists – found money to wage a legal battle rather than relinquish the apes, who had been taught language skills.
“Primarily Primates may well be entitled to the return of the OSU chimpanzees, but that issue is for the Travis County probate court to decide,” said Judge Stone yesterday.
That would mean more lawsuits for Primarily Primates, a private refuge, in the midst of a harrowing economy.
“Other groups have battled against us over and over in the courts,” said Feral. “They obviously don’t have 450 animals to care for. We cannot jeopardize the safety of the whole group and the refuge itself to spend money on cases that turn into disagreements between courts and go on for three years or more.”
Feral points out that new monkey habitats are being constructed and money is needed to see them to completion. Several primates, including Karibu, an olive baboon formerly used in biomedical research, have recently been accepted into Primarily Primates for permanent care.
“Every penny is needed for animal care,” said Feral. “I look at these beautiful renovations and I know we must be careful to protect all we’ve done here.”