March 29, 2012
James W. Wagner, PhD
President, Emory University
Dear President Wagner,
On October 24, 2011, I sent a letter to Dr. Stuart Zola, director of Yerkes National Primate Research
Center, concerning Wenka, a 57 year old chimpanzee at Yerkes. My letter included two questions
about Wenka and 5 other elder chimpanzees reported to be held at Yerkes. I inquired about the use of
anesthesia on Wenka, and if the 5 other elder chimpanzees over 50 years of age still remain at
Yerkes. I never received a response to my inquiries, so I am writing again in hope of a reply.
Much has changed since I sent the letter to Dr. Zola in October. On December 15, 2011, the NIH
suspended any new funding of chimpanzees for biomedical or behavioral studies. The suspension was
in response to a report from the Institute of Medicine that found “most research on chimpanzees is
unnecessary.” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement that chimpanzees, being our closest
relatives in the animal kingdom, need “special consideration and respect.”
The United States is finally beginning to catch up with the rest of the world in questioning the ethics of
using chimpanzees in laboratory experiments. The fact that Emory is using chimpanzees for research
from birth until death, up to 60 years, is shocking to the general public. I have handed out more than
4,000 leaflets regarding this issue, and I have not found a single person who thinks that this is an
appropriate way to treat these intelligent animals. Retiring Wenka to a sanctuary is an issue that the
public feels very strongly about.
The way our world treats animals is changing, and a new world is arriving, slowly but surely, a world in
which humans consider the well-being of other species. I challenge Emory to become a part of this new
world, starting with the consideration of one elderly chimpanzee who has been forced to give so much.
Wenka, as the oldest known chimpanzee in any laboratory, a chimpanzee who’s life story is
heartbreaking, has become symbolic of the total disregard of the welfare of animals used for research.
If Wenka dies in Yerkes, her life will remain symbolic of the arrogant and callous treatment of intelligent
chimpanzees, which, as shown in Yerkes’ own behavioral studies, extend compassion and fairness
towards each other. Emory can offer a kinder and more compassionate conclusion by releasing
Wenka to a sanctuary.
Wenka is currently being used in a five-year study that began in April 2007, which soon should be
coming to a conclusion. She will turn 58 on May 21. Please do not let Wenka die in the laboratory that
she has been forced to endure for nearly all of her 58 years.
Again, I ask to meet with you to discuss the release of Wenka to a sanctuary.
Julie L. Robertson
Georgia Animal Rights and Protection