Project Chimps, a new 236-acre sanctuary for chimpanzees coming out of research, just welcomed their first nine residents this September.
Primatologists and professionals from all over the country left their current roles and signed on to work for Project Chimps, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is making unprecedented advances for captive chimpanzees. Through relationship-building, collaboration, and tenacity, Project Chimps was able to come to an agreement with the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center. They agreed to let Project Chimps have all of their remaining chimpanzees and provide them with lifetime sanctuary care. This decision is unprecedented and shows what positive collaboration can do for the betterment of others, in this case: chimpanzees.
Project Chimps, a new 236-acre sanctuary for chimpanzees coming out of research, just welcomed their first nine residents this September. Emma, Gertrude, identical twin sisters Charisse & Buttercup, Gracie, Latricia, Samira, Jennifer, and Genesis made the 16-hour Road to Retirement trip from the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Lafayette, Louisiana to their new sanctuary home in Morganton, Georgia. While this was a momentous occasion for the nonprofit organization, it is also just the beginning. Over 200 chimps will make the Road to Retirement journey to sanctuary over the next few years.
The girls, as they are affectionately referred to, range from 10 to 13 years of age. They were in an established family group while at NIRC, but were separated in preparation for the trip to their new sanctuary home. Upon their arrival and after each chimpanzee was unloaded from the transport trailer and individually transferred into the Cedar Tree Villa (one of four housing buildings on the property), they greeted each other as old friends would: lots of hugging and kissing. It was certainly an emotional event to witness. The day ended with several of the girls sitting atop the “monkey bars” on their outdoor porch looking out at the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains surrounding them. The peaceful look on their faces appeared as if they already knew they were home.
One of the exciting parts about life at a sanctuary is that the chimpanzee residents get to make choices about who they want to spend time with, where they spend their time, and what to play with. They are even being introduced to new foods and fun ways to eat them. One of the organization’s founding donors, television personality and animal advocate, Rachael Ray, completely redesigned and remodeled the Chimp Kitchen at the sanctuary. She created a smoothie bar, where caregivers will be able to make delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetable smoothies for the chimps.
The caregivers are slowly getting to know the chimps’ personalities: Gracie, for example, has quickly established herself as the group comedian, often engaging in play with her friends and caregivers. She enjoys playing with enrichment items like stuffed animals, wearing hats, and hiding under blankets. Gracie is always ready for the next meal and willing to make trades for the occasional extra carrot. Gertrude and Samira, on the other hand, have been a bit more reserved and are taking their time to open up. But that’s ok with the carestaff, who are happy to go at the chimps’ pace. Emma is definitely the group’s Einstein – crafty and creative. She takes advantage of every opportunity and is always watching, even when you think she isn’t!
There are many more Road to Retirement trips to make and anyone can help bring a chimp home to sanctuary. A new life is in store for them. Just visit ProjectChimps.org for more information on how you can help. It’s their time to live.