June 03, 2016 02:45 PM

A few months ago we told you about how Rooney and Kate Mara are using their star power to help a group of former lab chimpanzees abandoned in Liberia — now a slew of other celebrities are taking action.

Actors Rachel McAdams, Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Page, Jessica Chastain and more have joined the Mara sisters and The Humane Society of the United States’ effort to urge the New York Blood Center (NYBC) to reinstate funding for the more than 60 lab chimps it abandoned after decades of research in Liberia. A petition they signed has been sent to the NYBC as a call to action.

The sisters saw the plight of these animals first hand, when they joined the HSUS on a recent trip to the country to visit the 60 chimps left there by the NYBC. According to CNN, the NYBC partnered with the Liberian government in 1974 to fund hepatitis research and other experiments at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research using the chimps.

When research on the chimps ended a decade ago, they were released to live freely on islands near their former lab. Until recently, the NYBC was providing funds to care for the animals, since they are incapable of living in the wild on their own.

Last March, the blood center pulled funding, leaving the chimps without protection or resources and the Institute struggling to find another source for the funds. The animals — some of them elderly and missing limbs — have been languishing on their own for over a year, surviving thanks to help from groups like HSUS, which pays $20,000 a month to care for the forgotten chimps.

The petition, also signed by Jamie Bell, Edie Falco, Ellen Burstyn, states, in part: “… until NYBC keeps its promise and reinstates funding for the care off these chimpanzees, its name is synonymous with shameful animal neglect. We implore NYBC not to ignore the plight of these chimpanzees any longer and work with The Humane Society of the United States to provide financial support for the chimpanzees without further delay.”

In an open letter written earlier this year, the Mara sisters said NYBC has a moral obligation to help care for these animals.

“The public is understandably furious with NYBC for its inhumane and despicable decision to abandon these chimpanzees who unwillingly gave over 30 years of their lives to medical research. Further, your organization left the government of Liberia (one of the poorest countries in the entire world), while in the midst of an Ebola outbreak, and other nonprofit organizations with fewer resources than NYBC, to pick up the pieces,” they wrote. “You completely ignored pleas for intervention when it was clear that your withdrawal left the chimpanzees in a dire situation. Regardless of any legal obligation you may have to these chimpanzees, you absolutely have a moral and ethical one.”

“Despite the physical and emotional trauma these animals have endured (documented in records detailing frequent, painful liver biopsies, surgical procedures, and weekly darting as well as handwritten scribbles noting the animals’ fright and emotional trauma) they are doing amazingly well. The resilience of these animals is astonishing and humbling to say the least,” Rooney and Kate Mara added.

“It’s never too late to choose compassion over indignity,” they said in closing. “We urge you to work with The Humane Society of the United States to determine a solution that would be beneficial for the chimpanzees and for the people of Liberia who depended on you.”

Want to help these chimps? Click here to sign the petition.


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