The New York Blood Center [NYBC] has made a $6 million contribution toward the lifelong care of 66 chimpanzees it abandoned on islands in Liberia over 10 years ago.
The animals were used for biomedical research by the center before it dumped them in 2006, then cut off care in 2015 - leaving the responsibility in the hands of the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS].
The Humane Society will continue caring for the animals for their lifetime - at a cost they have estimated to be around $17 million.
Research on these animals started in the mid-1970s. Tests conducted were part of a process that led to the development of a hepatitis B vaccine and safer blood transfusions for humans. In 2006, NYBC ended its research program in Liberia and placed the chimpanzees on a set of estuary islands in Liberia.
For almost a decade, the center supplied the animals with food and clean water, which aren’t available on the islands, then stopped saying the chimps were the responsibility of the Liberian government - which at the time was battling an Ebola epidemic. The HSUS then stepped in to provide emergency funding and then took on the care of the animals.
Animal rights activists targeted the center for over two years after it abandoned all care of the chimpanzees, so the donation towards their care is seen as a victory for the advocates as well as for the animals.
Wally Baldwin, who serves of the Board of the Center for Great Apes and runs the Facebook page, NYBC: Do The Right Thing, said: "When I realized that NYBC was prepared to let their chimps die of starvation and thirst on deserted islands after holding them captive in cages for 30 years and conducting hundreds of painful experiments on them, I decided to rally caring people around the world to demand accountability and take action.
"I am gratified that our efforts paid off.”
A number of grass roots organizations put together campaigns targeting NYBC as well as three of its corporate partners - IBM, MetLife, and Citigroup, all three of which severed ties with NYBC and contributed $50,000 toward the care of the chimps after meeting with activists.
Donny Moss, one of the campaign organizers, said: "Our ability to compel multinational corporations to take the bold and unusual step of speaking out publicly against an organization with which they had a decades-long relationship demonstrates that grass roots advocacy can effect meaningful change."
Other significant milestones in the campaign were the resignations of two of the four NYBC board members targeted by the activists, Owen Garrick, who is based in Oakland, California, and Laurie Glimcher, who also quit her job as Dean of Cornell Medicine and moved to Boston after months of being targeted with protests.
The $6 million contributed by NYBC is expected to cover half of the cost of the lifelong care of the chimps. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which stepped in to take care of the chimps when NYBC abandoned them, will pay for the other half using contributions to its GoFundMe Campaign, which has raised $363,000 since 2015.
NYBC’s president and CEO, Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer, said: "[I am] pleased that we have found a capable organization to take care of the chimpanzees for their lifetime.
"This agreement allows NYBC to focus on its mission of providing stem cell and transfusion-related products to the more than 20 million individuals in the greater New York region and throughout the nation and internationally.”
Bill Richardson, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and founder of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, assisted with the negotiations. He said: “This is a good plan that NYBC and HSUS have crafted. There’s now a clear pathway to care for these chimpanzees in the decades ahead.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added: "I am delighted that these two organizations have agreed on a path forward that provides lifetime care for these long-lived and social creatures.
"The HSUS will work with its members and others to find the resources to make sure these chimpanzees know only human kindness for the remainder of their lives.”