NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The fight to get former medical research chimpanzees from a facility in Alamogordo just won a major victory in federal court. The ultimate goal of the court proceedings is to relocate the animals to a sanctuary in Louisiana.

A federal judge just ruled that the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) decision to hold back 30 chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) is against federal law. The Alamogordo Primate Facility at Holloman Air Force Base has been in operation since the 1950s and had, at one point, more than 200 chimpanzees on site.

“The Alamogordo Primate Facility is the place where chimpanzees were once tested on for human disease,” said Animal Protection New Mexico Chief Program and Police Officer Leslie Rudloff.

While those chimps were officially retired in 2015, there’s been an ongoing fight about their future. In 2000, the CHIMP Act was passed, stating that chimpanzees no longer being used for medical research were to be retired and sent to sanctuaries. A lot of them at Alamogordo did go—but not all.

“There are 30 chimpanzees that still sit on Holloman Air Force Base awaiting transfer to sanctuary,” Rudloff said.

“The government has cited these chimps’ health conditions as the reason not to move them, but these are common health conditions that laboratory chimpanzees suffer from, and they have been successfully moved,” said Humane Society of US Staff Attorney Margie Robinson.

Animal Protection New Mexico and the Humane Society of the US, as well as other interest groups, have been fighting to get them out ever since. Last year, they filed a lawsuit saying the NIH, which runs the Alamogordo facility, was breaking the law. Now, their case got a win.

“Our question to the court was whether NIH is violating the CHIMP Act by holding those chimps at Holloman Air Force Base at APF. The court agreed that they were in violation,” Rudloff explained.

However, that isn’t the end of the story for the chimps in Alamogordo. Even though the judge, in this case, ruled the NIH was in violation, the court still asked for more information before action is taken.

“In our view, the judge has spoken clearly about what the law requires, and so we think that NIH should begin putting together a plan to start moving these chimps as soon as practicable,” Robinson said.

“If you think about it, they’ve been federal employees, a lot of them, for decades. They deserve retirement,” Rudloff said.

Additional information is due to the court in mid-January. From there, it’s up to the judge whether the chimps’ release is ordered.

These chimps are supposed to go to a facility in Louisiana. ‘Chimp Haven‘ is a 200-acre facility that is home to more than 300 chimpanzees formerly used in biomedical research.

KRQE reached out to the NIH for comment on this lawsuit but have not heard back.