Affiliated with the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Air Force, Holloman Air Force Base; managed by Charles River Laboratories
Approximate number of chimpanzees: 172
Alamogordo Primate Facility
Holloman Air Force Base
P.O. Box 956
Alamogordo, NM 88330
The Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and serves as a research reserve facility for government supported chimpanzees. It is located on the Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, NM. According to an agreement made between NIH and the U.S. Air Force, “no invasive research shall be conducted on chimpanzees currently held at the APF.”1 The few individuals used in active research must be transferred to other facilities. Since 2001, the chimpanzees at APF have been managed by Charles River Laboratories Inc. (CRL) under a NIH contract. APF is one of “five NIH-supported sites that house research chimpanzees.”2
Beginning in the 1950s, the United States Air Force began maintaining a chimpanzee “colony” at the Holloman Air Force Base to conduct aeronautical and space research. The initial population was composed of 65 young and infant chimpanzees captured from Africa. By 1970, the Air Force had ended its chimpanzee research and was leasing the chimpanzees to biomedical laboratories. Management of the chimpanzee lab at the Holloman Air Force Base was contracted to toxicologist Frederick Coulston, who was an avid proponent for the use of chimpanzees in cosmetics and insecticide testing, among other things. In 1981, New Mexico State University assumed management of the Holloman chimpanzee lab. However by 1993, management of the facility and its chimpanzees was once again taken over by Coulston; that same year the infamous Coulston Foundation was incorporated and over time eventually cared for some 650 chimpanzees, the world’s largest holding. Under Coulston, chimpanzees were bred for and used in invasive research involving toxicology, infectious diseases, and drug testing. 3
After several years of repeated Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations under Coulston, NIH assumed custody of 288 of Coulston’s chimpanzees in 2000 and agreed to the Air Force’s stipulation that no further research be allowed at the Holloman facility. On April 20, 2001, NIH stated in a Memorandum of Understanding, “Under an agreement among the Coulston Foundation, the NIH, and the United States Department of Agriculture…, the NIH assumed ownership of the animals and committed to care for the chimpanzees at a particular set of facilities on the Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico (under contract) to be known as the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF). The APF and all animal activities conducted therein are covered by a Use Permit between the NIH and the United States Air Force. The APF will be operated as a Government Owned – Contractor Operated entity.”4 In 2002, Coulston declared bankruptcy due to financial collapse from AWA violations and mismanagement, and its 266 remaining chimpanzees were rescued by Save the Chimps (STC). With substantial funding from the Arcus Foundation, along with additional funds from several animal protection groups including NEAVS, STC was able to purchase the Coulston facility and has since relocated all of the chimpanzees to their permanent sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida.5
Unfortunately for the chimpanzees housed at APF, many problems still remained. In 2001, NIH awarded a ten-year, $42.8 million contract for the care and maintenance of the APF chimpanzees to CRL—the world’s largest animal breeder, importer, and private supplier of animal “models” for research. Despite the notorious AWA violations at Coulston, when CRL gained responsibility for the care of the APF chimpanzees, it retained many of the same employees—including veterinarians—who had been employed at Coulston during the time of its numerous animal welfare violation charges.6 In 2004, CRL and the APF Director Dr. Rick Lee were charged with three counts of animal cruelty for the deaths of two chimpanzees, Ashley and Rex, and the neglect and suffering of a third chimpanzee, Topsy. The charges were filed by District Attorney Scot Key, whose investigation was prompted by evidence supplied by In Defense of Animals and their network of whistleblowers at APF. According to court documents, under CRL’s care “about 21 chimpanzees have died…over a two-year period either by natural causes or neglect by personnel;” this includes the deaths of three chimpanzees who died by electrocution due to unsafe conditions at the facility. Sadly, the cruelty charges were dismissed on a legal technicality having nothing to do with the merits of the case.7 In 2010, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request NEAVS/Project R&R learned that 62 chimpanzees have died at APF between 2001 and 2010.
In June 2010, NIH announced that it would transfer all of the chimpanzees at APF to the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) in Texas, where they would be offered for use nationwide in invasive hepatitis, cancer, autoimmune disease, and other research. NIH stated that with its 10-year contract with CRL soon ending, the relocation of the APF chimpanzees to the SNPRC would save $2 million a year while making all the chimpanzees available for research. An intense public outcry against NIH’s decision immediately ensued; New Mexico citizens and supporters nationwide, animal protection groups, celebrities, scientists, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson all joined together in protest against NIH’s plan. NIH, however, appeared unmoved and in July proceeded to transfer 14 chimpanzees from APF to SNPRC, with plans made to move the rest by early 2011. NEAVS/Project R&R and other national groups, including Animal Protection of New Mexico, remained firm and continued to urge NIH to keep the chimpanzees in New Mexico. In December, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman, Tom Harkin, and Tom Udall wrote to NIH and requested an independent study on whether or not chimpanzees were necessary for biomedical research.8
On January 4, 2011, NIH issued a statement saying the transfer of the chimpanzees from APF to SNPRC would be suspended “pending an Institute of Medicine in-depth analysis to reassess the scientific need for the continued use of chimpanzees….”9 At NIH’s request, the Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research was formed by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) in collaboration with the National Research Council. From May through November 2011, the committee deliberated and held “three 2-day meetings and several conference calls, including two public information-gathering sessions on May 26, 2011, and August 11-12, 2011.” NEAVS/Project R&R testified before the IOM in both of the information-gathering sessions. On December 15, 2011, the IOM released the results of their nine-month long study commissioned by NIH to investigate the current and future need for chimpanzees in research. The IOM concluded that “…most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.” The only exception was their “inconclusive” decision (a 5-5 split) regarding a “narrow area” of hepatitis C vaccine work.10
According to NIH, APF “provides for the long-term care and husbandry of chimpanzees [who] have been used in biomedical research” and “all chimpanzees at the APF have been exposed to various microorganisms, such as the hepatitis C virus and HIV. For this reason, they may be candidates for studies related to these diseases.” As previously mentioned, “no active, invasive research is conducted” on chimpanzees at this facility.11 The number of chimpanzees housed at APF has gone from 288 in 2001 to 176 in 2011.
Although no active, invasive research is conducted at the facility, data obtained during a chimpanzee’s annual physical may be used in cardiovascular disease and behavioral studies. In NIH’s contract with CRL, it stipulates that any chimpanzees used in active research must be transferred to the facility where the research will occur and cannot be returned to APF. Aside from the federally supported sanctuary Chimp Haven, APF is the only “non-research primate facility funded by NIH that maintains only chimpanzees.”12
In 2001, NIH awarded CRL a $42.8 million, 10-year contract to manage APF. According to NIH, the “cost to taxpayers for the APF contract is approximately $5 million per year.” The NIH contract with CRL was originally scheduled to end in May 2011, but NIH granted CRL a $3.2 million extension through December 2011. Prior to the release of the IOM report, NIH also granted the SNPRC between $2–3 million for renovations to expand and upgrade their current facilities in order to accommodate the chimpanzees from APF.13, 14
For CRL, although they are currently making less money than they did in previous years, they are still raking in a huge profit off of the use of animals in research. In February 2012, CRL “reported its results for the fourth-quarter and full-year 2011. For the quarter, net sales from continuing operations were $291.0 million, an increase of 3.3% from $281.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. On a segment basis, sales increased in the Research Models and Services segment, but declined in the Preclinical Services segment.”15 Specifically, “revenue from its research models and service business rose 8 percent to $182.4 million on greater sales of avian vaccines and increased use of in vitro services. Preclinical services revenue fell 3 percent to $108.5 million as the company performed fewer laboratory practice assessments, and as clients had it perform shorter term and less complex studies.” For 2011, CRL reported “an annual profit of $109.6 million, or $2.14 per share, in 2011. Revenue rose 1 percent to $1.14 billion…[and for 2012]…could grow as much as 2 percent, implying a total of $1.14 billion to $1.17 billion.” Investment analysts rate the stock a “buy.”16
Overall, CRL has experienced a great degree of growth and profitability over the past ten years. In 2007, an Investor’s Business Daily article reported that “total revenue in the third quarter [alone] rose 18.6% to $314 million.”17 From 2006 to 2008, CRL’s annual sales revenue soared 100 percent to over $1 billion, compared to just over $500 million in 2002. The company’s profitability rose almost 100 percent as well, totaling $125 million in 2006 compared to $68 million five years prior. For 2006, total assets for the company weighed in at just under $2.6 billion at year-end, which was a 270% increase from the $700 million reported in 2002. Shareholders’ equity rose 350 percent during the same time period from $357 million to a huge $1.6 billion. In 2006, company spending on stock options for their senior executives rose above $21 million. The common stock also performed well during that period, rising 42.8% since 2002, in line with the S&P 500 benchmark. Time and time again the company has also reported earnings per share profit at higher levels than expected by Wall Street analysts; in 2006, gross margins rose to 43%, meaning that 43 cents out of each $1.00 of revenue was profit (before taxes, depreciation, etc.). Yet for all the financial success, it is interesting to note that taxes paid in 2006 were less than $90 million.18
(1) Institute of Medicine. (2011). Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
(2) National Center for Research Resources. (2010, September 23). Transfer of Chimpanzees from Alamogordo Primate Facility to Southwest National Primate Research Center. NIH Press Release.
(3) In Defense of Animals. (2004, September 7). NIH Chimp Cruelty. Retrieved from http://www.nihchimpcruelty.com/nih_chronology_13.html
(5) Save the Chimps. (n.d.). Rescuing the Coulston Chimps and Transforming a Lab into a Sanctuary. Retrieved from http://www.savethechimps.org/rescuing-the-coulston-chimps
(6) In Defense of Animals. (2004, September 7). NIH Chimp Cruelty. Retrieved from http://www.nihchimpcruelty.com/nih_overview.html
(7) Rowland, C. (2005, March 29). Cruelty Charges Dropped against Charles River Labs. The Boston Globe.
(8) Institute of Medicine. (2011). Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
(9) National Institutes of Health. (2011, January 4). NIH Statement on the Alamogordo Primate Facility Chimpanzees. Retrieved from http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/air/nih_alamogordo_statement_20110104.htm
(10) Institute of Medicine. (2011). Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
(11) National Center for Research Resources. (n.d.). Primate Resources. Retrieved from http://www.ncrr.nih.gov/comparative_medicine/resource_directory/primates.asp
(12) National Center for Research Resources. (2010, September 23). Transfer of Chimpanzees from Alamogordo Primate Facility to Southwest National Primate Research Center. NIH Press Release.
(14) Tracking Accountability in Government Grants System. (n.d.). TAGGS. Available from http://taggs.hhs.gov/
(15) Investor's Business Daily, Inc. (2012, February 13). Charles River Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2011 Results from Continuing Operations. Retrieved from http://news.investors.com/Newsfeed/Article/141268744/201202131630/Charles-River-Announces-Fourth-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2011-Results-from-Continuing-Operations.aspx
(16) Investor's Business Daily, Inc. (2012, February 14). Charles River Labs jumps on stronger 4Q results. Retrieved from http://news.investors.com/APOnline/Article/320754/201202141444/Charles-River-Labs-jumps-on-stronger-4Q-results.aspx
(17) Investor's Business Daily, Inc. (2007, November 28). Outsourcer Handles Animal Tests, Lab Work for Big Drug Makers.
(18) Personal communication with Peter K. Van Winkle, CFA.