Responding to the need for long-term chimpanzee care, Chimp Haven was founded in 1995 by a group of primatologists and business professionals. Genetically, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than any other species. Because of their physiological and behavioral similarities, chimpanzees have been an attractive animal model for many researchers. In the 1980’s the U.S. government launched an intensive breeding program. The resulting offspring were the intended research subjects for hepatitis and HIV studies. However, with new research models and developing technologies, the use of chimpanzees in human disease research declined in the 1990’s. A large number of chimpanzees specifically bred for research or already exposed to infectious diseases are no longer wanted, resulting in a surplus of chimpanzees.
Chimp Haven created a solution to a national problem. Established in 1995, Chimp Haven set its sights on constructing a chimpanzee sanctuary where the residents could live in large social groups in spacious, outdoor habitats. Impressed with Chimp Haven’s vision and expertise, the government selected the organization in September 2002 to operate the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary System. This initiative was a result of passage of the CHIMP Act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and is overseen by the National Institutes of Health. The CHIMP Act:
- Initiated the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary System which retires chimpanzees from federally funded research programs
- Resulted in partial government funding for Chimp Haven to build and operate the sanctuary
- Requires adherence to strict federal regulations on the standards of care for the chimpanzees
In 2007, the Chimp Haven is Home Act was passed. This law closed a loophole in the CHIMP Act and prohibits chimpanzees retired from medical research to be returned to laboratories.