Ohio State sending chimpanzees to Texas
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University is closing its center where psychology researchers taught chimpanzees numbers and letters and sending the nine apes to a sanctuary in Texas, the university said Tuesday.
The university and Sally Boysen, the psychology professor who ran the lab, agreed in late 2002 that the center would close if she could not secure grants to pay for its $200,000 yearly operating costs, said Earle Holland, Ohio State research spokesman. She was given more time and submitted at least nine proposals but could not get the funding, according to a news release.
University primate centers around the country have faced similar problems, and the federal government has closed some of its primate programs, the release said.
A message seeking comment was left with the ethics and animal research director at the American Psychological Association.
The animals must be moved for their safety because adolescents in the group are reaching adulthood and challenging the older apes for dominance, the university said. The facility was last renovated in 1991 to house five chimpanzees.
Also, the oldest chimp in the group, Sarah, bit a student employed by the university in January. The student was following a longtime center worker on rounds, and when the worker approached the 47-year-old ape's cage to spray antiseptic on a bite wound from another chimp, Sarah reached through the mesh, grabbed the student and bit her arm. The injured animal apparently reacted because the student was a stranger to her, Holland said.
Holland could not recall any similar attacks, and said the bite did not affect the decision to close the center when a sanctuary could be found.
Primarily Primates in San Antonio is the third sanctuary the university asked to take the animals. Ohio State is paying about $324,000 to build a facility and provide an endowment to care for the apes, who are being kept together as a social group.
The chimps will have a larger enclosure and should become less aggressive and jealous of each other as they are weaned of treats and intense human interaction, said Wallace Swett, sanctuary president.
"We let chimps be chimps," he said.
Robert McGrath, Ohio State's senior vice president for research, said the university is "rightfully proud" of Boysen's work.
Several apes at the center, which Boysen founded in 1983, understand the numbers 1 through 7 and the concept of zero. Two or three can even do simple addition. Two of the younger apes, Keeli and Ivy, were the subject of a Discovery channel documentary on her work trying to teach them how to spell.
No published research came out of the spelling work, Holland said.
Boysen remains a tenured professor, and McGrath said the university would work with her to continue some form of animal research off campus.
Messages seeking comment were left for her by telephone and e-mail.
OSU Chimpanzee Center: http://chimpcenter.osu.edu/index.html
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