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November 19, 2015 11:37 AM EST

The last remaining chimpanzees at the National Institutes of Health will be sent to a sanctuary.

The 50 chimpanzees set aside for federal medical research at NIH aren’t needed anymore, NBC reports; no one has applied to study the apes in more than two years.

“It seems inescapable that after 2 1/2 years when there has not been a single request for access to these 50 chimpanzees … we have moved on from the time when research on chimpanzees was considered essential,” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said.

“This in no way says NIH is in any way backing off on the need to (conduct) research on other non-human primates. This is solely a question of research on chimpanzees,” Collins said.

The chimpanzees will be sent to Chimp Haven sanctuary in Louisiana, but there are only 25 spots open right now, so it could take years to get all 50 chimpanzees to their new home.

 

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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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