The agency said it must come up with $2.3 million it doesn't have in its budget to build additional enclosures at the 5-acre facility in Keithville for the chimps from the New Iberia (La.) Research Center that were recently designated as permanently ineligible for biomedical research.
The animals are to be transferred over the next 12-15 months, the NIH said.
"These animals have made important contributions to research to improve human health, but new technologies have reduced the need for their continued use in research," NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a release. "We are grateful to all of the organizations that have pulled together to help us transition these animals into formal retirement."
Chimp Haven, The Humane Society of the United States and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health are conducting fundraising campaigns to come up with the cash needed to cover the cost of their housing and care.
"This plan to benefit the chimpanzees is the result of unprecedented cooperation between many organizations and we look forward to continuing efforts on behalf of additional chimpanzees retired in the future," Chimp Haven President and Director Linda Brent said.
Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle called the plan "a ray of light for captive chimpanzees."
Michael Budkie, executive director of animal protection group Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, called the NIH announcement a "Christmas gift" for the chimps. The group had criticized an earlier decision to send them to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, saying it has a poor track record of caring for animals.
"While other organizations were applauding the supposed retirement of these chimps, SAEN investigated their destination and discovered with horror that the NIH was dumping the chimps from the frying pan and into the fire by sending them to Texas," Budkie said in a release. "It is about time the NIH does the right thing for these chimpanzees. The only proper home for these chimpanzees is a sanctuary."