Dr. Jane Goodall Sends Scathing Letter To New York Blood Center Over Abandonment of Chimps Once Used To Develop Hepatitis Vaccines

Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned chimpanzee expert, has sent an open letter to Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer, president and CEO of the New York Blood Center (NYBC), over its apparent negligence of 66 chimpanzees residing in the Vilab II sanctuary in Liberia. Though the letter was respectful, as one would expect from a U.N. Messenger of Peace, Goodall was completely transparent in her disapproval of the actions of the NYBC.

“I was recently made aware of the situation and understand that these chimpanzees would not have received food and water if not for the contributions of concerned individuals and the devotion of the chimpanzee caregivers,” Dr. Goodall wrote in her open letter to head of the New York Blood Center. According to the New York Times, those concerned individuals include people from the Humane Society of the United States. The New York Times said that the NYBC used the colony of chimpanzees for three decades and then abandoned them.

A spokeswoman for the New York Blood Center, Victoria O’Neill, said that the center “never had any obligation for care for the chimps, contractual or otherwise.” A statement from the center, meanwhile, said that it decided to stop providing for the chimpanzees that it used for 30 years after “a long period of unproductive discussions with the Liberian government about their responsibilities.” The center said it was costing them millions of dollars. The New York Blood Center, which reportedly had gross income in excess of $400 million for the tax year ending March, 2014, says on its website that it embraces and values “the highest ethical, humanitarian, medical, and scientific standards.”

Dr. Goodall wrote that she found it “completely shocking and unacceptable that NYBC would abandon these chimpanzees and discontinue support for even their basic needs.” Dr. Goodall reminded Dr. Hillyer that the chimpanzees are an incredibly intelligent and social species which is critically endangered across their entire range in Africa.

Dr. Goodall, who spent years observing and earning the trust of chimpanzees in the wild, didn’t mince words in her open letter when she addressed the president and CEO of New York Blood Center.

“Your company was responsible for acquiring these chimpanzees, some we understand even from the wild, and thus has a moral obligation to continue to care for them for the remainder of their lives.”

Goodall is not alone in her strong disapproval of the action of the center. She joins volunteers and employees of several animal protection organizations and a host of primatologists that are all equally as horrified about the center’s disregard of these primates. Front Page Africa reported on the abandonment of the chimpanzees last week.

“Liberia Chimpanzees used by a U.S. Research Institute the New York Blood Center for developing and testing of Hepatitis B and C vaccines that generated over US $500 million have been abandoned to die from starvation.”

Dr. Fatorma Borlay, head of the Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute, said that the research completed on the chimpanzees contributed to the NYBC bringing in more than $500 million in royalties, but now “these animals are left to die from starvation in retirement.”

Primate expert, Dr. Agnes Souchal, said that the NYBC told the Vilab II sanctuary employees that it would keep its promise to care for the chimpanzees for the rest of their lives.

Anthropologist and primatologist Brian Hare addressed a petition on Change.org to New York Blood Center, pleading with the organization to renew funding to support the colony of chimpanzees that it used in biomedical research over a period of three decades.

“After using and profiting from them for decades, NYBC decided the chimps were no longer needed for future research and retired them to small islands near the lab. NYBC publicly proclaimed their commitment to the lifetime care of the chimpanzees, but walked away from their ethical responsibility when they stopped all funding for the chimpanzees’ care.”

Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research at the Humane Society of the United States said, “You cannot just use chimps like this and just abandon them and get away with it.”

After Dr. Jane Goodall’s open letter to the president and CEO of New York Blood Center appeared on the Jane Goodall Institute’s website Friday, the center’s Facebook page began racking up negative reviews. Once Dr. Goodall gets fired up about something, like what is happening to the chimpanzees formerly used by the New York Blood Center, her supporters come out in droves.

[Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images]