The animals have been left undisturbed by medical researchers for a decade at a federal facility. During a tour of the site Tuesday, Richardson suggested the Holloman Air Force Base facility could be converted into a behavioral research laboratory jointly operated by the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.
But, he says the National Institutes of Health's reaction to the suggestion wasn't "encouraging."
Animal rights advocates are fearful the animals will be subjected to harmful experiments at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.
Federal officials say research on chimps is necessary to develop vaccines.