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Gift of a Lifetime! 9 Lab Chimpanzees Moved to New Gorilla Sanctuary in Georgia

Sep 10, 2016 08:30 AM EDT

A group of nine female chimpanzees has retired from being test subjects in lab research and made a 16-hour journey to Project Chimps, a new animal sanctuary in northern Georgia as part of their #RoadtoRetirement journey.

The nine chimpanzees were previously housed at the New Iberia Research in Lousiana for medical research. The decision to move the animals was after they were declared as endangered species in the US last year. The National Institutes of Health also declared in November that using chimpanzees in medical research has no "justification" and that it would let these animals retire, The Guardian reports.

"In general, chimps are used in human health research. They have given their lives for us and our health, and now is their time to be chimpanzees and retire here," sanctuary director Sarah Baeckler Davis told Inside Edition.

Sprawling on a 236-acre facility, Project Chimps is a gorilla sanctuary that can house over 80 chimpanzees. However, the facility is still aiming to expand its area through donations from individuals and animal rights groups.

In the facility, the chimps will get the chance to live in packs of 10 to 20 and have access to a forested area. They will also get a chance to play with toys, puzzles and magazines as well as lie down on hammocks. Meals of bananas, apples and biscuits will also be served. But most importantly, Baeckler Davis said that the sanctuary will let chimps "make their own choices about how they'll spend their day."

The move is welcoming news to animal rights group who have raised ethical concerns in using chimpanzees for human experiments because of their 98 percent similarity to human beings.

“There has been a watershed moment where the public, the scientific community and the government were aligned that this research wasn’t to be done any more,” Baeckler Davis told The Guardian. “The arrival of the chimps was an overwhelming moment for a lot of us, we have been working on this for a long time. There were tears."

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