Lab Chimps Released, See Sky For First Time (Video)

by
Owen Poindexter
Watch this strange and beautiful video of lab-reared chimps, some of them in their fifties, seeing the big blue sky for the first time, on the first day of their retirement.

It is estimated that about 2,000 chimps live in the United States, about half of them in research laboratories. Many of them are subject to invasive tests, and they can live into their fifties spending their entire lives indoors, mostly in cages. More than 100 will be released from the New Iberia Research center into Chimp Haven, a government sponsored chimp sanctuary for retired lab chimps. They released this heart-wrenching video (complete with swelling, tear-pushing music) of chimps seeing the sky for the first time. It's strange and beautiful and sad and joyful.

The chimps react by simply looking up in recognizable childlike wonder. They also run around and play, awakening dormant social instincts like testing each other for dominance and grooming. Granted it's just a short video, but the chimps seem surprisingly well adjusted for having lived their entire lives in a wildly different physical environment. I'm sure there were some chimps who went a little neurotic on their first exposure to the outdoors, but it's still a joy to see these ones look up into the sky for the first time.

Chimp Haven is a simulated wildlife environment, meaning that these chimps will not have to make it in the real world (for which they are not at all ready). They haven't had the easiest lives, but they will have a great retirement.

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