Rescuing Liberia’s Abandoned Chimps

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As the New York Blood Center (NYBC) remains adamant with its decision not to support the chimps that it has used for research purposes; local organizations in Liberia are beginning to intervene in rescuing the chimps and are preparing to legally engage the center to live up to its commitment.

One of the non-governmental organizations, locally ensuring that NYBC live up to its commitment to the chimps is the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL).
SCNL has begin holding series of consultations with other NGOs involved in conservation to ensure that steps are taken locally to have NYBC reconsider its decision not to support the chimps.
SCNL is one of Liberia’s oldest conservation organizations whose foundation dates back to the 1980’s.

The executive director of SCNL Michael Garbo said, his organization decided to quickly intervene upon hearing through the media that the chimps were abandoned by NYBC. Garbo said a team from SCNL visited the Liberia Institute for Bio-Medical Research (LIBR) to obtain the facts surrounding the chimps’ abandonment, adding that it was established that NYBC did abandon the chimps.

“Upon hearing the story, my institution (SCNL) immediately begun creating awareness and raising alarm by taking to the airwaves to get the public informed about what is happening to Liberia’s chimps.”

The SCNL Executive Director said a meeting for NGOs involved in conservation was held, where action points have beed adopted to pursue the NYBC.

According to Garbo, SCNL and other NGOs have begun gathering all the agreements between NYBC and the government.

He said the body has agreed to begin the process by writing the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and will be followed by a communication to the U.S Embassy.

Garbo continues: “one of the key resolutions is to mainly get the FDA involved; FDA is the legal body responsible for wildlife management.”

“We want to let the world know that there is some local action being done, we want to thank our international partners for the step taken so far,” Garbo said.

According to him, for the survival of the chimps, the blood center should see the need to continue its support, adding, “The lives of the chimps are at stake, they are chimps from Liberia, they have nowhere else to go, and if they decide to get wild, it will be dangerous for the community.”

A Representative of the Humane Society of the United States in Liberia, James Desmond, said currently, his organization has funding for the up-keep of chimps, noting that it is not sometimes sustainable.

Desmond said the original agreement between NYBC and the government of Liberia dates back to 1974, which talks about five percent royalty will be given to Liberia from money generated from the research and an endowment fund will be set up.

Giving the status Phoebe, McKinney of ISPARE said in March of this year that the NYBC decided that it was going to stop its financial support to the chimps.
Phoebe said currently it is not about the chimps that have been abandoned but also the staffs that were abandoned.

The Chimps were used in research for the development of the hepatitis B vaccine and also contributed to the validation of a sterilization method that eliminates transmission of Hepatitis B and C and HIV viruses through blood products. The Chimps are left with the underfunded
Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute to take care of, a burden the institution is finding it difficult to handle.

Dr. Borlay said the agreement between U.S Institution and the Government of Liberia provided that NYBC will provide care for the chimps in “retirement.” “Care has to be provided for these animals in retirement on the islands where they are safe from human predators and local people and animals which have lost their fear of people can be vicious”, he said.

Dr. Borlay added that NYBC initially began implementing the agreement, adding that it has stopped its support to the chimps. “Because they were raised in captivity, the chimpanzees have to be fed by handlers whom they have come to know and trust and provided with other care at a cost of about $ 30,000 per month,” Dr. Borlay added.

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