Imagine spending the first 23 years of your life in the dark, confined to a cage as you are tested on repeatedly by researchers at a pharmaceutical laboratory. It sounds like absolute torture but it’s the reality of what we have done to some nonhuman primates in the name of science even when they share 96 percent of our genome.

On occasion, after years of testing, laboratories will release some of these primates to sanctuaries. Recently, a national pharmaceutical laboratory released nine female baboons, ages 13 to 23 years old, to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, allowing these baboons to live out the rest of their lives in a natural setting, and one without painful tests, anxiety or confining cages.

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The Born Free USA refers to the baboons as the “Lucky Nine.” After arriving at the primate sanctuary just outside of San Antonio, Texas in Dilley, the nine female baboons were confined to a small area to help them adjust from life in a cage to life in the open. The baboons immediately began to explore their new surroundings, slowly building strength and social connections among each other.

After weeks of adjusting to their new found freedom, the baboons were introduced to the rest of the sanctuary. Although they may have been scared and intimidated, their new home offers them a new world to discover, one without the darkness of a cage.

Using primates in animal testing is not a new practice, but it is certainly one that is out of date. The genetic similarities between humans and primates has made nonhuman primates like baboons and chimpanzees especially vulnerable to medical testing over the years. The American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) reports the number of nonhuman primates in research testing went up from 42,298 in 1973 to 62,315 in 2006.

However, this barbaric testing is beginning to slowly disappear across the globe. Many countries in Europe including Great Britain, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain have banned medical testing on great apes. Unfortunately, the U.S. lags behind many other developed countries and is even the largest user of chimpanzees in medical research, with an estimated 937 chimps currently in laboratories.

There have been small victories over the years in the fight to prevent medial testing on nonhuman primates. In 2007, the AAVS put pressure on the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources to put a stop to the breeding of government-owned chimpanzees. Also in 2007, Congress passed the Chimp Haven is Home Act, which is an amendment to the Public Health Service Act, and prevents the removal or testing of surplus chimpanzees from sanctuaries.

Unfortunately, a promising bill called the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act failed for a second year in a row. The act would have called for the phase out invasive research on chimpanzees — it would have released more than 500 chimpanzees to sanctuaries and would have even saved the government money over a ten year period.

Even with the failure of this recent bill, the fight to stop animal testing on nonhuman primates is not over and you can help! One way is by donating to the Sanctuary Adoption Program or supporting Born Free USA Campaigns. By adopting a primate, your donation helps provide food and care for a specific animal, and you’ll also get a picture of the individual primate you’ve helped.

Image Source: Dean Franklin / Flickr 

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