SHREVEPORT, La. – A combination of good timing, hard work and the kindness of others has provided the means for eight chimpanzees stranded at a closed wildlife refuge to move to the lush, forested Louisiana landscape of the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary this year, according to a news release from Chimps in Need.
Among the factors behind the move is a recent surprise influx of donations, including an anonymous $1 million gift.
“This is an incredible boost to the chimpanzee rescue effort,” said Erika Fleury, program director for the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), which is leading the fundraising effort that brought in $1.5 million in recent months and a total of $3.7 million thus far. “Now, we will be able to move eight more chimpanzees to the beauty of accredited sanctuary retirement -- all due to the generosity of our donors. It feels like a miracle.”
The eight chimpanzees are among 18 that remain at the Wildlife Waystation outside Los Angeles, which closed in 2019 after a series of setbacks led to financial hardships. Space is limited at accredited chimpanzee sanctuaries, and some moves have required the construction of additional living spaces.
Plans are now underway to move the chimpanzees – Axil, Buster, Connor, December, Denise, Inky, Mocha and Tequila -- to Chimp Haven in Keithville this year.
“It is such a gift to have this move fully funded so this social group can soon explore the beautiful, forested habitats that Chimp Haven offers,” Fleury said.
The fit is right for Chimp Haven as well, which specializes in chimpanzees that were formerly used in biomedical research, most of whom were government owned and supported. In January, Chimp Haven welcomed two NIH chimpanzees to sanctuary retirement, but no other transfers are currently scheduled for this year.
“The need to welcome government owned and supported chimpanzees to Chimp Haven has slowed, and this provides us with the opportunity for the first time to look at opening our doors to some of the Wildlife Waystation chimpanzees who desperately need sanctuary,” said Rana Smith, Chimp Haven president and CEO. “We’re excited that we’ll be able to welcome eight of the Waystation chimps this year, and we’re hoping to be able to welcome another group of three soon after.”
Fleury said that while the influx of donations was a boost to the urgent rescue campaign, Chimpanzees In Need, must raise $181,000 more to fund the move of three additional chimpanzees to Chimp Haven. Another $755,000 is needed to rehome the final seven chimps that will remain after the Chimp Haven relocations and cover the outstanding promised future care costs for the chimps.
“With less than $1 million left to raise, we are so close to getting all of the chimpanzees to their new forever homes, but our efforts are not done yet,” Fleury said.
Chimpanzees In Need has received the endorsement of leading ethologist and activist Jane Goodall, and already has placed 23 chimpanzees in new homes at trusted facilities. Forty-two chimpanzees were on site when the Wildlife Waystation shut in 2019, most of whom are retired from biomedical research and the entertainment industry. One elderly chimpanzee died of natural causes.
“I’ve visited these sanctuaries,” Goodall said of Chimp Haven and other accredited sanctuaries working to save the Wildlife Waystation chimpanzees. “They’ll provide perfect environments where these chimpanzees, who’ve known so much suffering, can live out their lives in peace.”
To learn more about the chimpanzee rescue effort and how to help, visit www.chimpsinneed.org