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Chimps fate still up for debate

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By Tim Korte

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A decision to move 186 chimpanzees from a southern New Mexico facility to Texas is pitting government officials and scientists against a coalition of elected officials and animal rights advocates, including New Mexico's governor and famed primate researcher Dr. Jane Goodall.

The chimps have spent the past decade undisturbed by medical researchers. But the National Institutes of Health has decided to cut government costs by moving the animals to a San Antonio primate facility, where animal rights activists worry they'll be improperly poked, prodded and stabbed in the name of science.

Gov. Bill Richardson and others would prefer to see the chimps' current home — a former biomedical research lab at Holloman Air Force Base — converted into a chimpanzee sanctuary. After visiting the site Tuesday, the governor said the animals are in excellent health, and he suggested the New Mexico lab could instead become a behavioral research facility.

But the director of the Texas facility maintains opponents have it wrong. The chimps will have outstanding care and live in quality surroundings as they undergo testing that can include injections and, in some cases, the use of a needle to remove a small liver sample, he said.


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