The agreement ends a bitter controversy over what obligations the center had to chimpanzees it used in tests that helped to develop a hepatitis B vaccine and safer blood transfusions for humans. That research began in the mid-1970s and lasted until 2006, when the blood center pulled out of Liberia and moved its 66 remaining primates to estuary islands. For almost a decade, the center supplied the animals with food and clean water, which aren’t available on the islands.
The center withdrew funding in 2015, saying the chimps were the responsibility of the impoverished Liberian government, which at the time was lurching through an Ebola epidemic.
The Humane Society has since headed up the care of the chimpanzees, at what it says is a cost of about $30,000 a month. The blood center, meanwhile, has been the target of public protests over its treatment of the chimps, as well as criticism from some of its corporate backers. Most recently, IBM said this month that it had suspended support for the center’s blood drives in New York until it had implemented “a long-term solution” for the animals, the youngest of which could live for 40 more years.
In the statement, the blood center’s president and CEO, Christopher D. Hillyer, said the agreement “allows the 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.”
The two organizations said former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, whose foundation had previously given $35,000 to help fund a sanctuary for the chimps, assisted with the negotiations. Pacelle said his group would continue to seek additional donations for the primates, “to make sure these chimpanzees know only human kindness for the remainder of their lives.”